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In a Prudential Light, Part 2 Chapter 7

Roslyn
November 08, 2019 07:53PM
Yes, once again, it’s been quite a while since my last update! Life is very full, but writing this story is such a fun break. This chapter is a nice long one, which I hope partially makes up for my neglect. Thanks all for the lovely comments and for sticking with me!

A brief warning, this chapter is probably rated PG-13. Nothing too scandalous, I don’t think, but consider this a heads-up just in case that matters to folks.


Chapter Seven

At some point just before dawn, Elizabeth returned undetected to the rooms she had occupied while a guest at Pemberley. She did not sleep. Instead of retiring to bed, she sat near the window and watched as the first glimmers of dawn appeared, thinking of Darcy, wondering if he slept, hoping the coming day would provide an opportunity for them to be alone together. She felt calm and happy for the first time in many months.

She was not a fool; she knew that the situation they had now created for themselves would no doubt be full of trials, disappointments, and very likely heartache. She knew that taking so brazen an action as sharing Darcy’s bed put them both at risk of the most severe censure, and potentially could result in the gravest of consequences for herself. But in this moment, she could only feel happiness. Happy to love so worthy a man, happy to be loved by him in return, and sure in the knowledge that, though the future was anything but certain, Darcy himself was entirely steadfast.

Of course, she knew that it was a truth universally (if tacitly) acknowledged that many of the rich and powerful took to other beds than those assigned to them by marriage. But brought up the daughter of a country gentleman of modest fortune, surrounded most often by the society of those with sensibilities far less urbane than those of the landed gentry, she had never imagined to be in such a situation herself.

Her mother had shared with her very little about the intimacies of the marriage bed the night before her own wedding. The extent of this information had been to convey that it was one’s duty to allow one’s husband to occasionally exercise his manly passions upon one’s person, and that if one’s husband looked the way Mr. Collins did, one had best not expect to ever much enjoy it. However, to avoid increasing with a baby each time these passions were so exercised, there were certain little personal ablutions one should observe afterward that were as good a remedy as any available to a young wife. (This final piece of her mother’s advice at least, Elizabeth had religiously followed directly upon returning to her room that morning.)

Having a lively and inquisitive mind, Elizabeth had done a little further research in the library of the rectory at Hunsford. Her discoveries, found in books tucked away in the farthest recesses of the shelving, had been scientifically enlightening, but in no way increased her eagerness to do her duty by her husband. In fact, they had accomplished rather the reverse.

But being with Darcy had been nothing like what her reading or her mother’s advice had prepared her for. There was no sense of duty or obligation there, or academic detachment. The look in his eyes when he touched her bare skin and ran his fingers through her hair, the pounding of her own heart—as if it would burst at once with joy and terror—when they lay together naked in his bed. The smell and the feel and the taste of him, the overwhelming love and tenderness that filled her when she held him inside herself, and the sense of near desperation to hold him ever closer. She remembered the heedless ardor that had overtaken them as they kissed and caressed each other as if the world was sure to end in the morning. Perhaps it was. But drawing her shawl tightly about her shoulders, staring out at the first signs of dawn on the Derbyshire landscape, and lost in memories of the previous evening, Elizabeth found that she didn’t much care.

She must have dozed off, for at length, a faint rustling sound at her door pulled her from a light sleep. A little dazed, she rose, stretched, and went to the door.

A note, carefully folded and sealed, had slid beneath her door and now lay on the floor at her feet. She smiled—it was not very difficult to work out who the sender had been. She bent, collected the bundle, and returned to her place at the window to open it.

My love,

You have only just left me and yet I can think of nothing else but when I will see you again. My brain is humming with a kind of delightful din which I am certain signifies that I am going mad with joy. I dare not recall the events of last night too clearly, lest they prove to be only the figments of my fevered imagination. But then I remember that you are the most beautiful, wise, and admirable woman I will ever know, and I cannot help but dwell on the taste of your lips, the feel of your lovely form in my hands, and the sound of your ardent sighs against my ear.

But you will laugh at all this and tell me that I am a sentimental fool, even while your countenance flushes with the most delightful color.

Believe me or no, I have not put pen to paper this morning simply to reflect on your charms (although I take real pleasure in such an opportunity). With the worst of luck, I have been called away this morning to attend to a pressing matter of business in Derby. I hope I do not insult your own excellent mind by not wishing to bore you with the particulars – I myself am bored with them, being not at all disposed to look favorably on a dry administrative affair which takes me from the view of your fine eyes, but nevertheless, I had better not tarry in seeing the matter resolved.

I anticipate that I will return to Pemberley in one or two days’ time – an eternity, I know, but I will conclude my business as quickly as may be and return to you with all possible speed. God knows I shall be keenly aware of my absence from you, and in no mood to humor anyone unwise enough to attempt to detain me.

Until then, I must content myself with giving you every assurance of my regard, and the eagerness with which I look forward to being at liberty to do more than simply write to you of these things.

Yours, in every way that matters,

—W





The day was so remarkably fine that the ladies—or more particularly, Lady Catherine— determined that a picnic luncheon on the great lawn would be the very thing to suit them all.
Mr. Bingley and Mr. Hurst made their excuses, saying that such fine weather demanded they try their luck fishing in the trout stream on the other side of the estate.

The ladies then settled down to their luncheon without them, and a kind of pleasant summer doziness settled over the company after they had finished their repast. For her own part, Elizabeth was too distracted with thoughts of Darcy to care much for what the others said, only too happy to let the threads of the other ladies’ conversation float passed her unheeded as she dwelt upon her own private considerations.

Where was Darcy now, she wondered, and was he finding it as difficult to concentrate on anything but memories of their lovemaking as she was? Her fingers fluttered absent-mindedly over the little spot beneath her jaw where he had kissed her last as they bid each other farewell in the early hours of the morning. When would he be able to return? Would he seek her out alone at once, or would they be obliged to wait until the rest of the house was once again asleep? Would he wish to share her bed again? That last question brought a secret smile to her lips – his letter this morning had left her in little doubt of the answer.

“Would you not agree, Mrs. Collins?” Caroline Bingley’s voice cut into Elizabeth’s private reverie, and she returned her attention to the company to find Miss Bingley regarding her with eyebrows raised and a characteristically arch smile about her lips.

“I’m sorry?”

“I was just remarking what a shame it is that Mr. Darcy should have to attend to a tedious matter of business in Derby on such a fine day.” Her expression was outwardly polite, but a little twist at the corner of her mouth made Elizabeth feel instantly wary.

“Yes, I suppose it is,” she replied, hoping that this would be the end of it.

“How tiresome,” the lady continued, taking no real notice of Elizabeth’s response, “for gentlemen to be obliged on a moment’s notice to ride off on a hot day to speak to each other on magisterial matters which must be of no real interest to anyone, when they had all rather be with their company at home. I am sure I should hate such a thing.”

Lady Catherine was on the point of opening her mouth to protest to this dismissive remark, but to everyone’s surprise, it was instead the small but steady voice of Georgiana Darcy that replied, “I am sure my brother is only too happy to set aside his own amusement in the service of Pemberley’s best interests and those of our neighbors, Miss Bingley.”

“Oh but of course he is, my dear Georgiana!” replied the lady, a little flustered at this apparent rebuke from the young heiress. “Mr. Darcy’s sense of honor and duty is so far above any reproach—I am sure I did not even think of suggesting otherwise for a single moment!”

Georgiana appeared mollified at this, and the conversation strayed to the matter of Mrs. Hurst’s search for a new lady’s maid after her current girl had become engaged to a merchant in Covent Garden. But the reference to Darcy’s honor and sense of duty had cooled the fever in Elizabeth’s blood somewhat, and replaced it with other, less agreeable concerns.

It was true that these characteristics were among the chief reasons she loved and admired him. But it was also true that, given the moral precariousness of their current situation, she would be foolish indeed to disregard the possibility that, someday, perhaps even someday soon, Darcy’s duty and his love for her would be impossible for him to reconcile. And if that were the case, she realized with a pang, she knew which he ought to choose. Which she would insist he choose.

“And now I must insist that Anne and I retire to the house,” said Lady Catherine at length. “Her complexion is far too delicate to be sitting in the sun so long – do you not think so, Mrs. Collins?”

“Indeed,” said Elizabeth, “but perhaps, your ladyship might consider that a turn around the hothouse with Miss Darcy and myself might be beneficial exercise for her? We would be very careful to stay out of the sun, would we not, Miss de Bourgh?”

“Very well,” said Lady Catherine, rising from her place. “But you are right, Mrs. Collins. Anne’s bloom is greatly increased by moderate exercise. It is a shame that Darcy should be deprived of such loveliness even for a single evening.”

Miss Bingley’s smirk at this was scarcely concealed. “Indeed,” she said throwing a glance in Elizabeth’s direction. Then, regarding Lady Catherine directly, she continued in a hard voice, “such a pity too that Mr. Darcy will be unable to turn Mrs. Collins’s pages at the pianoforte this evening.” She fixed her gaze back on Elizabeth. “He does seem to so enjoy that office.”

Elizabeth’s throat felt suddenly dry. Was this mere jealousy, or did Caroline Bingley harbor suspicions? Good god, had she seen something? No, she couldn’t have. But still. . .

Lady Catherine’s face had gone rather pale despite the warmth of the afternoon. Her mouth formed a hard line, and she fixed a steely gaze on Miss Bingley. “Anne, we must retire. Come, child.” Her ladyship turned, grasped her daughter’s hand, and walked resolutely toward the house. She passed Elizabeth without looking at her.




It was very late indeed that night when Darcy at last reached the stables at Pemberley, having ridden many hard miles since sundown. His fellow magistrates had urged him to stay at the Derby Arms that night to save himself the long ride back to Pemberley in the dark, but he was undeterred. He could not bear the idea of sleeping alone in a cold and unfamiliar inn when he could be at home, sharing a bed (even if for just a few hours) with Elizabeth.

He saw to it that his horse was properly cared for, spoke briefly with the groom, and then turned toward the house. Despite the lateness of the hour and the length of the ride, he felt no fatigue. He bounded up the steps and into the front hall as he had not done since his boyhood. She was near, she loved him, and in a matter of a very few short minutes, he would be in her arms again.

Though accustomed to the civic duties that being master of so large an estate obliged him to perform, and unwilling to let any obligation go disregarded, the day’s journey to Derby had been trying to Darcy’s patience in the upmost. Although he realized that, even had he not been obliged to go, he likely would have seen very little of Elizabeth that day until dinner, and certainly would not have been at liberty to touch her or to speak to her frankly, he nevertheless felt a deep irritation at having been deprived of her presence entirely.

The express had come very early that morning, only about a quarter of an hour after Elizabeth had returned to her own rooms, brought into him before daylight by his valet (who had been somewhat puzzled to find the interior door bolted). The missive requested his presence at a meeting of the magistrates in Derby that very day, which for some infernal reason or another, could not be put off.

Resigned, he’d risen to wash and dress. As he did so, he discovered underneath the coverlet a slender blue ribbon, which he recognized as the one Elizabeth had used the previous evening to loosely tie back the hair from her face. It had evidently freed itself at some unknown point in the course of their lovemaking. The thought of this pleased him, and after he had dressed, feeling pleasantly foolish, he seized the ribbon and tucked it furtively into the pocket of his waistcoat. Then, catching a glimpse of his writing desk out of the corner of his eye, he thought to write her a brief note explaining his absence. The house would still be asleep when he went down – no one would be awake and about to see him slip the missive under her door.

And now the house was once more asleep, and he could go to her without fear of discovery. He took the steps upstairs two at a time, his heart hammering in his chest at the thought that the reunion he’d longed for since she’d left him that morning was now so very near. He walked swiftly down to corridor, his own breath loud in his ears, hurrying silently passed the other guest rooms – three doors, two doors, one door.

Elizabeth.




For the second time in as many nights, sleep evaded Elizabeth. Although she had slept precious little the previous evening, and certainly would have welcomed the rest, she found herself now awake in front of the fire in her room, staring intently into the flames, thinking.

She longed for Darcy but knew not whether it was reasonable to hope he would return before daybreak. Even so, he might be too exhausted from his business in Derby and the accompanying journey to wish for anything but sleep upon his return. But she could not help herself – the hope of seeing him, of being alone with him, however unreasonable, was enough to keep her wide awake.

There was too the matter of the conversation on the lawn that afternoon, which disturbed her. She had known for quite some time that Caroline Bingley disliked her and saw her as a rival for Darcy’s attention. But had she seen something to make her genuinely suspicious of them? Though vain and self-important, Caroline was also a shrewd observer of others. Had Elizabeth unwittingly given away more than she ought? Had Darcy?

The steely look on Lady Catherine’s face had been sobering too. It was as if Caroline’s comment had suddenly opened her ladyship’s eyes to a preference on the part of her nephew that she had never thought to consider. And of course she had not – her nephew, the master of Pemberley, one of the most eligible young men in the country, taken with the vicar’s wife? Impossible. And yet. . .

Her thoughts were interrupted by the very soft rap at her door that she had half expected to hear since the whole house had retired. Her heart slammed to a halt for a moment, then began beating again very rapidly indeed. Was it really him? She sat absolutely still, listening intently, feeling her pulse throb in her throat. He knocked again.




He stood there in the doorway, eyes fixed intently on her face, the corridor dark and silent behind him. She realized then by the look of him that he had not so much as stopped to remove his coat and boots – that he had come to her directly upon entering the house. At this indication of his eagerness, a slow smile to spread over her lips, and looking up lovingly into his face, she reached for his hand and pulled him hastily inside.

“I was sure you would not be able to return until tomorrow,” she said presently, a little breathless, her forehead resting against his as he briefly broke off their kisses to impatiently attend to the matter of removing his coat.

“And yet you were waiting for me,” he said, the smile apparent in his voice. Having managed to shake free of the offending garment, he once more plunged both hands into her hair at the nape of her neck and brought her face up to meet his.

Her smiled bloomed against his lips, and she laughed a little. “And you came directly to my door the moment you entered the house.” He chuckled, and continuing to kiss her, gently nudged her backward so that they were stepping together into the center of the room.

“God, I have thought of nothing but you all day.”

“Nor I anything but you.” His hands were warm through the fabric of her nightdress, making her keenly aware of the fact she wore nothing underneath it. A long sigh escaped her lips as he bent to kiss her neck and jaw. Her hands slipped over his shoulders and behind his head, pulling him closer to her even as she rose up on tip toe to meet him. “Will you stay with me?” she whispered, lips grazing his ear as her cheek rested against his.

A kind of half-laugh, half-groan came from deep in his throat. “You ask as though I had any choice,” he replied huskily. Then he gathered her up in his arms and carried her to the bed.




Afterward, they lay together facing each other, legs still entwined, Darcy running his fingers up and down the length of her bare arm. The fire had burned to embers in the grate, and a single candle flickered on her dressing table.

“You really do have the finest eyes,” he said, a little smile hanging about his lips as he studied her.

She laughed softly, but the compliment pleased her. She loved seeing him this way – at ease, unguarded, hair tousled, with the faint shadow of stubble emerging at his jawline. He looked happy. And the knowledge that she herself had had this effect on him was as heady as it was astonishing.

“Do you remember Bingley’s dog,” he asked suddenly, “that great beast he had at Netherfield?”

Elizabeth paused to reflect a moment, then smiled when the animal came to mind. “Why yes, I do. He was a sweet creature, as I recall, despite being very large and very energetic.”

“That’s the fellow. There was a day at Netherfield, after you had come to stay with your sister, when I caught a glimpse of you out on the lawn with the dog – the rooms I had there faced the south garden, and I looked down one afternoon to see you scampering about, the dog cheerfully following at your heels, eager to indulge your every whim.” He reached up to push the hair away from her face. “And I thought, ‘Good god, Darcy. You’re jealous of a bloody dog.’”

Elizabeth brought a hand swiftly over her mouth to keep a burst of laughter from escaping her lips, but her eyes danced with merriment above her fingers. “Were you indeed?” she asked, her voice trembling a little with the effort of holding back her mirth.

He smirked. “Oh yes. You were favoring the lucky brute with the brightest of your smiles, the fullest of your laughter, and when you had finished your game, you devoted yourself to thoroughly stroking his ears in a manner which, at the time, I thought looked rather appealing.”

Elizabeth was obliged this time to bury her face in the pillow, muffling her peals of laughter. When she raised her head again, her cheeks were pink, and an impish grin had spread over her mouth. “My dear William,” she said in mock seriousness, “are you saying that you would like me to stroke your ears?”

This question earned her a squeeze to the buttocks and a playful tussle amongst the bedclothes. The result was to leave them both shaking and flushed with stifled laugher, breathless, and more than a little aroused. Elizabeth found herself on her back, pinned between his forearms, looking up into his face. His broad smile was fading into a more serious expression, and his dark eyes were now fixed on her lips.

“I had no idea you were drawn to me so early in our acquaintance – certainly not so early as when Jane fell ill at Netherfield.” Much as she wanted him again, these opportunities to speak openly and frankly were so precious, so unpredictable, that it was worth delaying their pleasure if only for a short time simply to talk to him. And despite the fact she was still very much a novice in such matters, months of longing for Darcy before finally giving in to her desire for him had already taught Elizabeth that the mere anticipation of their union, and the lovely ache that it built up deep inside her, had a kind of intoxicating delight of their own.

“Hmmm. . .” he breathed, smiling knowingly at her. He lay down again on his back, and Elizabeth turned onto her stomach beside him, propping herself up on her elbows so she could better see his face. “You really had no inkling?” he asked, eying her somewhat suspiciously.

“Well,” equivocated Elizabeth, coloring a little, “To say I had none at all is perhaps a little disingenuous—even then, I did wonder why I so often found you staring at me, and my friend Charlotte Lucas did suggested once or twice that perhaps it was because you found me handsome. But I was so irritated with you for telling Mr. Bingley at the Assembly Rooms that I was merely ‘tolerable,’ and so determined to find everything you did proof of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish distain for the feelings of others, that I did not recognize your attention for the true compliment it was.” She sighed. “Foolish girl.”

“I had forgotten you’d overheard that unfortunate remark I made to Bingley,” he said, turning his head to place a lingering kiss on her shoulder. “The truth is, I don’t even recall making it myself, much less actually thinking such an absurd thing. Doubtless I was feeling irritated with Bingley for unthinkingly throwing me into yet another situation in which I would be the center of attention of every gentlewoman with unwed daughters in the county.” He sighed. “Even if my name and status did not expose me to near constant attention and scrutiny in public, my own natural temperament is quite reserved. I am not easy with people I have never met before, as Bingley is. I prefer intimate gatherings of friends to large parties of strangers. When I said you were ‘tolerable,’ I’m sure it was only to deny Binley the satisfaction of conceding that I found a single moment of that entire evening agreeable. But if I wounded you, then I am heartily sorry for it.”

Elizabeth, moved that he would share these things with her, smiled warmly at him and shook her head. “Forgiven.” She bent to kiss him lightly on the mouth. “And will you forgive me? For being determined to dislike you before having any idea of your true character?”

“How can I blame you for doing so? I behaved abominably in Hertfordshire, and I am certain I gave offense to many others besides you.”

“Still,” she protested, “I should like to have your forgiveness all the same.”

He reached out and cupped her cheek in his hand, tracing her lips with his thumb. “Whatever forgiveness you’d have from me has already been yours for some time now.” She smiled and kissed his thumb.

His expression grew thoughtful, and his hand dropped from her face to trace up and down her arm again. Presently he said, “When you came to stay at Netherfield, and we were so often in company together, I began to suspect that what I felt for you was beyond a passing attraction to a pretty face and a fine figure. But I was also determined to stifle those feelings, thinking that to indulge such an inclination, to a woman without either fortune or connections, was the height of selfish folly.” He shot her an apologetic look. “I was raised to consider the fitness of a potential partner primarily by what she might offer to secure the ongoing prosperity of Pemberley. It was not that my parents did not wish for me to find companionship or affection in a wife, but those considerations were decidedly secondary.”

He shook his head, growing a little agitated, and sat up. “What an utter ass I was. Had I been more honest with myself and with you, had I been less proud, had I considered even for a moment that a woman of your worthiness, intellect, and good sense would do more for Pemberley than any one of a hundred heiress, then. . . then perhaps it might have been me you married in December.”

Elizabeth felt the tide of emotion rise swiftly in her chest but pushed it down. She sat up too, facing him, and grasped his hand in both of hers. “Oh my love,” she said feelingly. “My love, I beg you would not rebuke yourself with such thoughts—I was as much to blame for our early misunderstanding as you were. We could not have known then what was ahead.”

He brought both her hands in turn to his lips. Then he looked into her face with an expression of such deep earnestness that her heart began to pound anew with love and desire. “You know, don’t you,” he began, then started again, “I swear to you—that someday we will be husband and wife, no matter how long we must wait. That is, if you will have me.”

Tears welled in Elizabeth’s eyes, but she impatiently brushed them away. “But you must marry a woman of consequence, and I must give Mr. Collins an heir.”

He shook his head fiercely. “You are the only woman of consequence to me. And Collins can go to the devil.”

As was becoming an increasingly familiar feeling, Elizabeth did not know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, she buried her face in the hollow between his neck and shoulder, then, wrapping her arms around him, she raised her head to seek his lips on hers.

“I should never have married him,” she breathed between fervent kisses, the fire in her blood igniting once again as his hands began to roam over her skin. “How I could ever feel for another man even a fraction of what I feel for you?”

“I don’t care who the world thinks you married,” he answered gruffly, running his hands down the bare length of her neck, shoulders, and back, pressing her to him. “You are mine, and I am yours.”

The made love a second time then with a kind of tender desperation, clinging to each other as if by sheer force of will they could lay claim to each other in spite of every obstacle poised to keep them apart. “You are mine,” she whispered back to him as they moved together, “and I am yours.”




They had been lying together quietly for some time, Elizabeth’s head resting on Darcy’s shoulder as she faded in and out of sleep, when Darcy said pensively, “The marriage with Collins is unconsummated – is there no chance for an annulment?”

Elizabeth sighed wearily. “I have asked myself the same question more than once. But you know as well as I do that such a tremendous step must come from a husband if it comes at all.”

He could not deny the truth of what she said, despite how deeply unfair the reality was. His fingers wove themselves distractedly through her hair. Presently he said, “Do you suppose that Collins could be persuaded to. . . ?”

“My love, if you are suggesting what I think you are, I beg you would not jeopardize your own impeccable good name by offering to compensate a man for parting ways with his wife.”

“Men of my position have done far worse for far less honorable aims.”

“Nevertheless, I could not bear the thought of our happiness coming at such a cost to you. And we would by no means be assured of Mr. Collins’s discretion. No, any idea of annulment must come from him alone.”

Darcy sighed impatiently. “Then what else am I to do? I cannot murder him, much as I should like to.” He turned to kiss the top of her head, then rested his chin there. He could tell from her breathing that she was once more on the edge of sleep. He longed to find some kind of solution to their present predicament, but it was very late, and they had both hardly slept in two days. “Stay here at Pemberley with me, Elizabeth,” he whispered into her hair. “Stay here and damn everyone else.”

He held her sleeping form in his arms for a long time, as long as he dared. Then, as the first light of daybreak came, he laid a final kiss on her cheek, and careful not to wake her, slipped from her bed to return to his own.




Elizabeth awoke that morning with both a pang of regret and a sense of relief when she realized that Darcy had evidently found his way back to his own rooms during the night while she slept. Although she hated the idea that waking up together in the same bed was a luxury they could ill afford, there was no sense in risking discovery over it. “Besides,” she thought, lifting her chin defiantly at her imaginary detractors, “there will be plenty of time to spend the entire night together when at last we can marry.”

The intensity of emotion that had marked the last few days had left Elizabeth a little weary. But the morning light promised yet another very fine day, and the memory that she had arranged with Georgiana Darcy and Miss de Bourgh to bring baskets round to Pemberley’s tenants after breakfast cheered her. Setting aside her troubles for the present, she dressed quickly and went down.

The young ladies sat down to breakfast together, no one else being down quite yet, and the lightness and ease of the conversation between them further buoyed Elizabeth’s mood. By the time they rose to don their spencers and bonnets, she felt almost herself again.

They were on the point of going to meet the carriage when a footman appeared with the post, delivering it dutifully into his mistress’s hands. Giving the bundle a cursory inspection, Georgiana discovered among the letters two addressed to Elizabeth.

“Two letters from Jane! I was wondering why I hadn’t. . .” she looked a little closer at the second letter. “This one was misdirected at first.” Elizabeth laughed a little. “No wonder, for she wrote the direction very ill indeed! Would you be very angry if I beg you to postpone our outing?”

“Not at all!” replied Georgiana, who was very attuned to sisterly feeling. “Of course you want to read your letters. Anne and I will walk in the garden and come back for you in an hour.”

“Thank you, you are very kind,” said Elizabeth with a broad smile.

“You must sit in the music room,” suggested Georgiana. “The light is very good at this time of day, and no one will disturb you there.”

Her companions departing, Elizabeth turned toward the music room. Once there, she settled into the great bay window overlooking the rose garden, smiling when she peered out to see Anne and Georgiana skipping merrily along the path as they might have done when they were children.

Looking down at her letters, Elizabeth felt a twinge of guilt at the idea of what her beloved elder sister would surely feel upon discovering the amorous turn Elizabeth’s relationship with Darcy had taken. Had Jane not warned her of Darcy’s apparent regard all those many months ago at Hunsford, and cautioned her to avoid any hint of impropriety? Whatever would Jane say now? Elizabeth intensely disliked the idea of hiding anything from her, but might she have to?

But these unsettling queries could wait for an answer. Keen for news from her beloved sister of their family both in London and at Longbourn, Elizabeth broke the seal of the first letter and began to read.

My dearest Lizzy, I hope your journey with Lady Catherine has not been as trying as you anticipated. We all miss you—I myself most of all I believe and have no scruple in telling you! I confess I have hardly had time to write. My nephews and nieces have commandeered almost every moment of my visit here in Gracechurch Street, but they are such dear children. Our aunt Gardiner has insisted that I not over-tire myself in attending to them, but I find that their youthful energy and sweetness of temper do much to lift my spirits.

There was a break on the page, where Jane had evidently left off for a time. When she took up again a little lower down, Elizabeth noticed with slight apprehension that her sister’s usually fair and even hand had begun to resemble the hasty, untidy script of the direction on her second letter.

Oh dearest Lizzy, since writing the above, something has occurred of a most serious and unexpected nature. But I am afraid of alarming you – be assured we are all well. What I have to say relates to poor Lydia . . .
SubjectAuthorPosted

In a Prudential Light, Part 2 Chapter 7

RoslynNovember 08, 2019 07:53PM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Part 2 Chapter 7

Lucy J.November 10, 2019 03:59AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Part 2 Chapter 7

AlidaNovember 10, 2019 01:40AM

Re: In a Prudential Light, Part 2 Chapter 7

DorotheeNovember 10, 2019 05:25PM



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