Friday, March 22, 2013

"And Who Can Be In Doubt Of What Followed?": Pride and Prejudice

Welcome to the future of Janeicillin! Some may remember my serialized stories, extending the ending chapters of Austen's novel, but anyone might read these musing in their original forms by going to the Janeicillin page of this blog, at least for now. I am in the process of editing the tales for ebook publication this spring under the new title "And Who Can Be In Doubt Of What Followed?": The Novels of Jane Austen Expanded (Persuasion reference ... get it?). To that end, I thought I would share the revised stories as I finish them, eventually replacing the old versions with the new. 

Enjoy this extension of Pride and Prejudice. If you want to read Sense and Sensibility, you may do so here, and Northanger Abbey is available here. I would really appreciate some feedback on all or any of these short stories, so please leave a comment. 

"Ma’am, I have something truly wonderful to tell you. Mr. Darcy has been so kind as to request my hand in marriage, and I have accepted."
Mrs. Bennet heard her daughter speak, but the words did not make sense. What could Lizzy be saying about Mr. Darcy?
Elizabeth watched her mother closely. She had prepared for an epic outburst to follow her declaration, even asking her mother to sit down in case of swooning, and to instead encounter calm collection was rather unnerving. "Mama, do you attend?"

"Yes, Lizzy dear."

"Mr. Darcy has proposed."
The voice seemed to Mrs. Bennet’s ears as if it came through a dense fog and great distance. She could not possibly have heard correctly. Mr. Darcy, that odious man! He would never ask for her daughter‘s hand, so proud and superior. There must be some mistake. Mr. Darcy of Pemberley? Mr. Darcy with ten thousand pounds … “Oh my! Excuse me, child, but what did you say?”

Elizabeth smiled in relief, “I am to marry Mr. Darcy, Mama. Is that not agreeable?”

“Oh! Yes, indeed, my dear girl! But Mr. Darcy? You are quite certain?”

“Yes, ma’am. I could not be more so.”

Mrs. Bennet stood up, only to sit back down again, as if unsure of what it was she wanted to do. She stared up at Elizabeth and began to ramble, with a great deal of awe, "Good gracious! Lord bless me! Only think! Dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it! And is it really true?”

“Yes indeed it is, Mama. I would not jest regarding a matter of such import.”

“Oh! My sweetest Lizzy! How rich and how great you will be!”

“I suppose I must, as Mr. Darcy is himself so rich and great.”

“But only consider! What pin money, what jewels, what carriages you will have! Jane is nothing to it – nothing at all!”

“I’m sure you need not share that opinion with her.”

“Such a charming man! So handsome! So tall! Oh, my dear Lizzy! Pray apologize for my having disliked him so much before. I hope he will overlook it.”

“You will find Mr. Darcy everything gracious. We have been very much mistaken in him. He is the best of men.”

“Yes, yes of course he is! Oh, my dear, dear Lizzy! A house in town! Everything that is charming! Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me? I shall go distracted."

Certain her mother would somehow overcome any indisposition resulting from overwhelming happiness, Elizabeth felt safe excusing herself and retreated to her own room. While pleased by her mother’s delight, she felt no need to subject herself to its spectacle. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bennet was not ready to quietly reflect on the family’s good fortune, and not three minutes passed before she was at her daughter’s door. "My dearest child!" she cried. "I can think of nothing else! Ten thousand a year, and very likely more! 'Tis as good as a Lord! And a special license! You must and shall be married by special license. But my dearest love, tell me what dish Mr. Darcy is most fond of, that I may have it tomorrow."

Elizabeth sighed. Would that her stunned silence had continued! “Dear Mama, Mr. Darcy himself has already complimented the excellence of your table. You need not go to extraordinary means to please him.”

“Yes, yes of course, you clever girl! He particularly enjoyed the partridges. But can we serve them again so soon?”

“I do not see why not.”
“What thinks Mr. Darcy of grouse?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t the slightest idea.”
“Lizzy! If he is to be your husband, you best make it your business to know his tastes,” she scolded before bustled off to plague Hill with menus. Elizabeth reflected that, though in the certain possession of his warmest affection, and secure of her relations' consent, there was still something to be wished for in her engagement. She would have to do all she could to minimize Mr. Darcy’s mortifications at the hands of her family.

While riding to Longbourn the next morning, Mr. Bingley commented on his friend’s likely discomfiture. “Shall you enjoy having the opportunity to kill all the pheasants at Longbourn? Admit it, Darcy, few hostesses are so generous.”

“Indeed. It may prove a very welcome invitation. Each time I am tempted to snub the lady, I’ll take a gun and deplete her park instead: a very satisfactory exchange.”

“I daresay you will miss Mrs. Bennet’s old coolness, but your loss is my gain. You have spared me the brunt of her effusions, being a far greater matrimonial prize. I am sure to be neglected, now that you have eclipsed me.”

“Don’t be so downcast, Bingley. I have perfect faith that Mrs. Bennet has enough admiration to spare us both.”
Darcy’s jocularity masked his nervousness. The likely change in Mrs. Bennet’s demeanor, now that Elizabeth had announced their engagement, was sure to be uncomfortable. He hoped to conduct himself in a manner to make Elizabeth proud, enduring her mother with good grace and tolerance. More he doubted he could muster.
All the ladies of the house were at home. Jane and Elizabeth came forward with greetings, but Mrs. Bennet seemed oddly subdued. She smiled nervously at the gentlemen and invited them to sit down, but after offering and ordering refreshments fell silent – she and her two daughters choosing to stare at Mr. Darcy, rather than assault him with felicitations.

Bingley looked at Darcy with a shrug before taking his place beside Jane. Darcy sat by Elizabeth, and her smile put him somewhat at ease, but the inattention of the three ladies across the way to their needlework, as they continued to inspect him like some exotic circus creature, was thoroughly unnerving.

Elizabeth, while relieved her mother wasn’t overwhelming her intended with attention, was also acutely aware that such unusual behavior on her family’s part might be even more conspicuous. She never thought such extremes would prove necessary, but she silently urged Darcy into opening a conversation with her mother. Clearly, the lady was so very awed by such a grand prospect as Mr. Darcy, that the proverbial cat had stolen her tongue. He nervously complied, clinging to safe ground: “Mrs. Bennet, it is a lovely afternoon, is it not?”

“Yes indeed, Mr. Darcy, very lovely,” was the normally loquacious lady’s reply.
“Unseasonably warm as well.”

“Yes, quite so. Unseasonably warm. Don’t you agree, Kitty?”

With a slight jump that young lady responded, “Yes, Mama. Unseasonably warm.”

This would not do. Her family was so overawed by Mr. Darcy that anything resembling coherent conversation was beyond them. The situation called for drastic measures, and Elizabeth repositioned herself for the assault: “My mother had a wonderful notion last evening. She suggests that we marry by special license. Would that not be felicitous?”

Darcy turned to her in surprise, well aware that such ostentation was far from what Elizabeth preferred. She tilted her head towards her mother and, glancing in that lady’s direction, he noted her blushing countenance and responded appropriately, “Yes, of course I can acquire one, if you like. My uncle is well acquainted with the archbishop, and I have often dined in his company.”

By Mrs. Bennet’s response, he knew he had hit upon precisely the right topic, “Do you really know the archbishop himself, sir?

“I do indeed, ma’am. His Grace and my uncle were at school together.”

Mrs. Bennet beamed and addressed the daughters flanking her. ”There! Now you see, my girls!”

“See what, Mama?” Kitty questioned, much confused.

“Why, what a very great gentleman Mr. Darcy is, just as I said!”

This reply left him flustered, and Elizabeth turned the conversation back to her purpose. “I imagine the procurement of a special license will require several days in London. There must be some protocol to be followed, and as his Grace is a familial connection, it is of particular import that you not be remiss in such matters. How long must you be away?”
Darcy had no choice but to return Elizabeth’s sly smile. Never had prevarication sat so well with him. “Yes. You are correct. I imagine a month might suffice, for once I am in town I cannot possibly leave without paying my respects to those of my primary connections currently in residence.”

“But sir,” Mrs. Bennet interrupted, “surely you intend to go to town regardless, in order to see to the settlements?”

“Bingley and I intended to perform a quick trip, just to consult our lawyers and be gone. I would not even have had to place the knocker on my door for such a mission, but a consultation with the archbishop will take time to arrange, and society must be given its due.”

“Certainly, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth continued. “One can never be too correct regarding such matters. For the honor conveyed by a special license, I believe I can bear the separation.”
“Can you?” came his forthright reply. “I am afraid I am not likewise ready to part from your company at this time.”

“Then you mustn’t!” declared Mrs. Bennet, much in her usual manner. “How can you so distress Mr. Darcy? Though your heart is set on marriage by special license, Lizzy, you must make do with the banns. Soon you shall be a married woman and will have to accustom yourself to accommodating your husband’s wants.”
“I imagine I can tolerate the disappointment, Mama, if you can.”

“Disappointment? My dear Lizzy! What nonsense you speak, child! Never have I been more content.”

No one in the room had the slightest doubt of her claim’s veracity.
“Mr. Darcy, I would be pleased if you would join me in my library. I understand that the allure of books pales besides my Lizzy, but you will indulge your future father, will you not?”
Mr. Bennet had approached as they listened to Mary perform upon her instrument, and while Darcy was surprised by the request, he was most happy to comply, “Certainly sir. I am delighted.”

“No need to go so far,” he chuckled. “Willing will suffice.”

The gentlemen settled themselves into the comfortably worn armchairs, Mr. Darcy curious as to the nature of this tête-à-tête. Surely, everything needing to be discussed had been the day before. Like himself, he knew Mr. Bennet was not a man of idle conversation, adding to the unexpectedness of this interview. He doubted his host merely sought to provide relief from Mary’s concerto.

“Well Mr. Darcy, you have weathered my wife’s effusions admirably. I commend you for it, though my entertainment would have been better secured had your self-command faltered. And she did let you off very easy, as I’m sure you know. It seems the requisition of such a grand son-in-law has been precisely the balm to sooth her nerves. Pity I didn’t think of it years ago. Take my advice, Mr. Darcy, and keep Mrs. Bennet in awe of you. If she perceives a crack in that notable dignity of yours, we shall all suffer.”

Darcy smiled, “I will do my best, sir.”

“Of course, if she knew of your service to her youngest daughter, there would be no escaping her gratitude, which would come in the form of massive imposition, as she would surely expect you to forevermore play the hero in all our family dramas.”

Mr. Darcy flushed. “I had no notion you knew, sir.”

“Lizzy only just told me.” He lost his typical air of humor and grew serious. “We are deeply indebted to you, Mr. Darcy. Lydia’s adventure could never have ended so well had you not intervened.”

“I thought only of Elizabeth, sir. I could not, having witnessed her desolation at Lambton, allow her to suffer so. She has already thanked me. You owe me nothing.”

“Nothing, sir? Excuse me, but it is inconceivable that you did not lay out an absurd amount of money to bring about the marriage of two of the most worthless individuals to ever grace this Earth, to say nothing of the personal exertions of body and mind such an endeavor entailed. I ask that you disclose all, so I may at least compensate you for the financial loss.”

“That is unnecessary, Mr. Bennet. I understand why this arrangement is uncomfortable for you, but I acted on my own behalf. Besides, had I exposed Wickham as a rogue, none of this could ever have happened. I would do anything to promote Miss Elizabeth’s happiness, and if you attempt to reimburse me for each favor I bestow upon her, you will soon find yourself in a sorry state.”

Mr. Bennet laughed. “How can I argue with such rationale, Mr. Darcy? I was counting on a violent display of lovers’ devotion, and your too reasonable philosophy disappoints. Bingley would have done it right.”

“I am sorry, sir,” Darcy chuckled.

“Oh, no need to apologize. I’m none the worse in gaining at least one sensible son-in-law. Mary and Kitty will surely fulfill their potential by marrying two thoroughly amusing specimens of mankind. The least you can do is accept my thanks, Mr. Darcy. While Lydia and Wickham are undeserving of your kindness, Jane and Elizabeth are not. I think you will make my Lizzy a very happy woman.”

“I will do my best, sir.”

“I need importune you no longer, son. I believe Mary has concluded her performance, so you had best get back to Elizabeth.” Darcy was all complaisance.
Mr. Bennet lingered behind, penning a long delayed response to Mr. Collins’ last missive:

Dear Sir,

I must trouble you once more for congratulations. Elizabeth will soon be the wife of Mr. Darcy. Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give.

Yours sincerely, &c.
After a few blissful days of basking in each other’s company, Elizabeth broached the unavoidable. "Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine what is to befall her?"
"I am more likely to want more time than courage, Elizabeth, but it ought to done, and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done directly."

"And had I not a letter to write myself, I might sit by you and admire the evenness of your writing, as another young lady once did. But I have an aunt, too, who must not be longer neglected."

From an unwillingness to confess how much her intimacy with Mr. Darcy had been over-rated, Elizabeth had never yet answered Mrs. Gardiner's long letter; but now, having that to communicate which she knew would be most welcome, she was almost ashamed to find that her uncle and aunt had already lost three days of happiness, and immediately wrote as follows:

I would have thanked you before, my dear aunt, as I ought to have done, for your long, kind, satisfactory, detail of particulars; but to say the truth, I was too cross to write. You supposed more than really existed. But now suppose as much as you choose; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford, and unless you believe me actually married, you cannot greatly err. You must write again very soon, and praise him a great deal more than you did in your last. I thank you, again and again, for not going to the Lakes. How could I be so silly as to wish it! Your idea of the ponies is delightful. We will go round the Park every day. I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh.

Mr. Darcy's letter to Lady Catherine was more succinct:

I write with great joy to inform you of my engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Though you have already made your feelings about such a union perfectly clear, I hope we might now relegate any hastily spoken words to the past. Know this is not the decision of a moment, but one long contemplated. Having honored me by accepting my offer, it is now my task to prove worthy of Miss Elizabeth’s affections.  

Though Lady Catherine fumed upon reading these lines, they did not surprise her, Mr. Collins having scuttled to her side the day before with tidings of the engagement. She had then denied the report, insisting that she would hear such news from her nephew herself, hoping against hope that the letter she now held in her hand would never come. His behavior, upon being told that Miss Bennet had refused to comply with her demand never to enter into such an engagement, had determined the matter for Lady Catherine. Angrily she returned to Rosings, and angry she had remained, but never more so than now, when all possible excuse to continue avoiding telling Anne was lost.

“Get me Mr. Collins!” she bellowed, sending several servants into motion. Someone must feel the brunt of her rage, and the Rector was her man. After all, if he had just married the impertinent lady in question, none of this could have happened.


The joy of communicating to Miss Bingley news of Mr. Darcy’s engagement fell to Miss Bennet, the person least likely feel the delight of such a task. Carefully penning a kindly response to her soon-to-be sister’s insincere congratulations, Jane unknowingly wrote one of the most distressing letters Caroline Bingley had ever received. Rather than congratulating herself on never having suffered any greater loss than the marriage of a man she had presumptuously set her sights on, Miss Bingley gave in to the full force of her tragedy. It fell to Mrs. Hurst to comfort her and scold her into decorum, while her husband, upon witnessing the onslaught of hysterics, hid from the uproar at his club, where he was happy to be the first to share news of Darcy’s betrothal.

“I will NOT attend that wedding!” was Caroline’s muffled cry as she wept into her pillow.

“But you must! It would look so very particular if you did not! Mr. Darcy will think that you cannot bear to face him, and I’m surprised you would even consider giving Eliza Bennet the satisfaction.”
This thought brought a halt to the rhythmic sobs. “I care not. I’ll plead the headache.”

“A likely story! Besides, Caroline, think of the Pemberley connection! You and Miss Eliza are already on poor terms. If you wish to maintain the relationship, I suggest you start making amends!”

As Louisa continued to recite the many good reasons not to slight the future mistress of Pemberley, Caroline reflected on her entire acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. She remembered the first time he accompanied her brother home on holiday, the delight of being invited to Pemberley, then Pemberley itself. Sweet Pemberley! The tears again began to overwhelm her when her sister’s words again intruded.

“ …and Georgiana will have her season soon. You might frequently be invited to join their party, and then think of the doors that will open to you! You had best forget every thought you ever had of Mr. Darcy and set your mind to finding a husband. You are not getting any younger, as I need not remind you, …”

“No, she really needn’t,” thought Caroline. “Of course, Louisa is correct. Eliza and Mr. Darcy will not enjoy constantly escorting Georgiana, especially as it is unlikely the new Mrs. Darcy will be welcomed into society with open arms.” Miss Bingley knew very well those protective, invisible walls that enveloped the Ton, penetrable only by bloodline, having felt first hand the sting of being regarded only a visitor within their sanctum. The notion of Elizabeth Bennet impacted with the full force of society’s scrutiny brought some solace. And it was certainly true that only the most eligible bachelors would be presented to Miss Darcy. There was much to be gained by maintaining the acquaintance and little profit, but in self-regard, in breaking it.

Louisa paused in her lecture, either to catch her breath or due to the look of resignation that had spread over her sister’s calming mien, “Have I gotten through to you, Caroline?”

There was a pause before Miss Bingley responded collectedly, “Thoroughly. I will write to Georgiana with my congratulations and to invite her to stay at Netherfield whenever this monstrosity of a wedding takes place.”

“You forget it will not fall to you to invite Miss Darcy, as it is likely Charles will be married before her brother.”

Caroline scowled, but no more tears threatened. Louisa, content that the worst was over, departed her sister’s chambers.


The joy Miss Darcy expressed on receiving the same information that had thrust Miss Bingley into such disorder was as sincere as her brother's in sending it. Writing to his dear sister was no onerous task for Mr. Darcy; only one of those rare errors of the postal service could be blamed for the sister of the groom not being one of the very first notified of the impending marriage.  Four sides of paper were insufficient to contain Georgiana’s delight, and all her earnest desire of being loved by her sister. Sadly, her happiness was soon tampered, as she received less pleasant communications from first Lady Catherine, who made no secret of her disapprobation for Elizabeth Bennet, and then this from Caroline Bingley:

Words cannot do justice to my feelings upon learning of the impending marriage between your brother and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Please express to Mr. Darcy my sincerest congratulations on his engagement in your next letter. My particular delight in his choice stems from the closer relationship that we shall share, my dear friend, when my brother is married to Jane Bennet. Two best friends marrying two sisters! What could be more charming?

Once a wedding date has been set, please consider joining the Hursts and myself when we travel to Hertfordshire. Your companionship will enliven the journey and you are, of course, most welcome to stay at my brother’s house as long as the celebrations keep you in the area. The accommodations at Longbourn would be far too trying for one of your refined sensibilities, and as your brother will, of course, be in residence at Netherfield, I quite feel as if you belong to our party. The future Mrs. Bingley will not mind my taking the liberty of extending this invitation, as she is the kindest sister for whom one could wish and quite devoted to my happiness, which cannot be more certain then when in your company, my dear friend.

Georgiana knew Miss Bingley well enough to perceive her standard insincerity in these words (save for the first line, which she readily believed). Long had Caroline tried in vain to attract Fitzwilliam, and Georgiana had born witness to some of her most humiliating attempts. She had hoped that with the end of Darcy’s eligibility, so too would end Miss Bingley’s attentions, but it seemed that was not to be. Clearly, Caroline was determined to continue inflicting her presence on the Darcys. Not amused, Georgiana responded with uncharacteristic boldness:

Please accept my congratulations on your brother’s approaching nuptials. It is natural that you feel your good fortune in securing Jane Bennet as a member of your family, for I hear she is the sweetest and loveliest of ladies. It is very gratifying that Mr. Bingley, one of the kindest brothers I know (indeed, I often feel as if he is my own), should find his equal in his wife.

Your felicitations are most welcome, and I will happily avail myself of your offer to journey together. It will provide Mrs. Annesley with the ability to use my brother’s marriage as an opportunity to visit her sister, without my having to ask Fitzwilliam to part from Miss Bennet. I would hate to intrude upon their time together, and your kind invitation provides a most welcome solution to the problem. As for where I shall reside while in Hertfordshire, I appreciate your kind offer upon the future Mrs. Bingley’s behalf, but I have already accepted Miss Elizabeth’s invitation to stay at Longbourn. I trust my sensibilities shall somehow bear the affront.

As for Lady Catherine’s letter, she fed it to the fire.


The post at Longbourn grew to hitherto unknown proportions over the next week, the situation becoming so desperate as to send several maids scurrying about in search of a larger salver than that which usually sufficed to hold it. Jane received Miss Bingley’s response to her last on the same morning that two particularly thick letters arrived for Elizabeth: one from her Aunt Gardiner and the other from Miss Darcy. The family was all together at the breakfast table, and Elizabeth perused the second with her lips curved into an amused smile.

“Well Miss Lizzy?” her mother’s excited voice interrupted her reading. “Tell us what Miss Darcy has to say?”
“She congratulates me most warmly on my engagement, professing her sisterly devotion.”

Mrs. Bennet beamed. “That is how it should be. What else?”

“Miss Bingley has invited her to stay at Netherfield for the wedding,” Elizabeth said with a conscious look at her sister, who seemed pleased with the contents of her letter.

“Yes,” Jane casually confirmed, betraying not a hint of chagrin. “She mentions so much here.”

“While Miss Darcy appreciates the opportunity to be with her brother on this occasion, it does not seem that she relishes the idea of Miss Bingley’s companionship. For a girl of sixteen, the pursuits of such older ladies cannot be particularly stimulating.”

“I certainly would not care to spend all my time with Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, and I am a year older than Miss Darcy,” Kitty stated with determination.

“How fortunate then that it is not required of you,” replied Mr. Bennet. “You Jane, being so very much older than Kitty, will not feel it so hard.”

“Not at all, Papa,” she smiled.

Elizabeth seized the opportunity to defend her sister. “I believe Kitty makes a valid point. Would not Miss Darcy be far happier amongst girls her own age? If you see no objection, I should like to invite her to stay with us at Longbourn instead.”

Mr. Bennet frowned slightly, but before he could respond his wife exclaimed, “Oh yes! That is exactly what you should do. We should be honored to host Mr. Darcy’s sister.”

“Should we, Mrs. Bennet? Just when these tired walls could finally breathe a sigh of relief, you seem intent on once again stressing their structural integrity with an excessive number of young ladies!”

Mrs. Bennet bristled. “I am sure we can make Miss Darcy quite comfortable.”

“It was my own comfort I was considering.”

“Please, Papa. Miss Darcy is a very quite, reflective young lady. I assure you her presence will be no intrusion, and I believe we will all benefit from her companionship.”

When Mr. Bennet saw Elizabeth’s genuine desire for Georgiana’s presence, he easily relented. “Very well, my dear. If she might set a less foolish example for my daughters to follow, who am I to object? I would like to think myself the head of the family, but as we all know that place to be held by your mother’s nerves, I shall submit to their whims.”

“My nerves have nothing to do with the matter,” Mrs. Bennet asserted. “Having Miss Darcy at Longbourn will bring Mr. Darcy all the more often, and Kitty can entertain her, while Lizzy attends to him. You see how nicely it is arranged.”

“I would think that a lady of Miss Darcy’s education would prefer to spend her time engaged in more productive pursuits than that which Kitty favors. I shall invite her to practice with me.”

“I am sure Miss Darcy has interests enough to enjoy both yours and Kitty’s companionship, Mary,” said Elizabeth, smiling reassuringly at Kitty, who looked unsure. Elizabeth herself felt rather uncertain of what Mr. Darcy would make of his sister staying at Longbourn, immersed in the society of her family. She would speak to him of it that very morning, when the gentlemen escorted Jane and Elizabeth on what had become their daily walk.

It remained warm for the season, and the party departing from Longbourn animatedly discussed the felicity of the weather, sharing recollections of autumnal scenes until they passed Meryton, where they broke into two groups. Jane and Bingley spoke of Caroline’s letter and a potential wedding date, while Elizabeth regaled Darcy with an account of her aunt’s praises.

“Aunt Gardiner cannot say enough in your favor. She calls you a perfect gentleman, hailing from the perfect place, and could not be happier for us. I am surprised Uncle Gardiner hasn’t become jealous, for how can he be expected to compete with a Derbyshire man?”

Darcy smiled the subtle way he did before offering a rejoinder, an expression she was now beginning to recognize. “We cannot allow my birthplace to disrupt such a happy marriage as the Gardiners’. Shall we relocate to Hertfordshire? According to Mrs. Bennet, with very little improvement, which I could doubtlessly afford, the great house at Stoke would make an admirable residence.”
Elizabeth stopped walking and a look of utter horror spread across her face. Darcy couldn’t help laughing, “Come now, Elizabeth! Surely you would not reject me just because of a change in abode?”

“Would I not?” she asked with a teasing smile.
He studied her with mock severity. “You know, if you coveted my possessions rather than my company, you might have accepted my offer at Hunsford.”

“But sir, that was before I saw your beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” They laughed together and resumed their walk, arm-in-arm. After a moment, Elizabeth broke the peaceful silence, “My mother should not have spoken to you of such things. I thought you better shielded from her tongue.”

“Your mother did not tell me so: your father did, when we went shooting yesterday. He recited a fascinating tale of the homes your mother suggested as possible residences for Mr. and Mrs. Wickham.”

“Ah yes, I believe she dismissed several grand homes as unacceptable before my father declared it mattered little, for they would never enter Longbourn. It took a great deal of persuasion before he relented.”

“So he said. I understand you were instrumental in changing his mind. Your father thinks very highly of your judgment, Elizabeth, as do I.”

She blushed consciously. “I wonder what you will think of my most recent decision, though I really do not know what else could be done. I received a letter from Miss Darcy this morning.”

“Georgiana has been a rather active correspondent lately. I suppose she couldn’t resist sharing her delight with you directly?”

“Oh, she is excessively joyful, and I only fear that when she knows me better, she will be disappointed.”

“That’s not at all likely. As she gets to know you, she will love you the more,” he said assuredly.

“It seems she will soon have the opportunity.”

“What do you mean?”

“Miss Bingley has offered her a place in the Hurst’s carriage when they travel to Netherfield.”

“Excellent! It will save me a trip to London.”

“But your sister does not enjoy Miss Bingley’s company. She would rather, so she writes, enjoy the hospitality of Longbourn.”

This time Darcy halted, looking down at Elizabeth with surprise and concern. “She invited herself to stay with you?”

“That is one way of putting it, yes. It is no imposition, I assure you. We would be delighted to have her.”

He did not respond, and another silence ensued as they walked on, this one uncomfortable and tense. Elizabeth felt mortified, then angry. “So we have come back to this,” she thought. “I believed he had overcome his disdain for my family, but I see I was wrong. But of course, he is right to hesitate. What kind of environment is Longbourn for Miss Darcy?” She spoke, her voice quivering with emotion, “If you deem my family inappropriate company for your sister, Mr. Darcy, I shall inform her that we are unable to accommodate her wishes.”

He looked to her in surprise, but she refused to meet his eye. Putting his hands on her shoulders, he turned her towards him. “Look at me, Elizabeth,” he demanded in a slightly pleading tone. She looked up. “That is not what I was thinking. Georgiana knows better than to put herself forward in such a manner. It was presumptuous of her, a failing from which many in my family suffer. Surely you can’t imagine I think Miss Bingley a more appropriate companion to my sister than you?”

“But what of my mother, and my younger sisters? There is sure to be talk of Mr. Wickham, and Miss Darcy not sharing your intimidating height, sir,” she tried to laugh, “she is unlikely to dazzle them into silence.”

“Your mother can be counted on to do everything possible to make sure her material comforts are fully met, and I am sure Georgiana will find your sisters very pleasant company, once they get to know each other.” He smiled encouragingly, and she chided herself for doubting him. Wrapping her arm snugly around his as they walked on, she hoped the gesture conveyed both her love and repentance.

“I say, Darcy!” Bingley called from behind, where he and Jane had lagged. Now they hurried forward, both glowing with delight. “Jane has had the most wonderful notion!”

Jane blushed and said shyly, looking to her sister, “We were just discussing Miss Bingley’s travel arrangements, and it occurred to me that it would save everyone a good deal of trouble – that is if you approve, of course – were we to have one wedding, rather than two.”

“You see, Darcy! A double wedding! Is it not a marvelous idea?”

Mr. Darcy was a bit surprised, but felt no aversion to sharing his nuptials with his friend, and Elizabeth’s smile suggested it was exactly what she would most enjoy. “It seems a very practical solution,” he mused aloud. “No need prolonging the disturbance such preparations cause. You are in agreement, Miss Elizabeth?”

“I think it a wonderful notion. My mother might at first despair the reduction in fanfare, but surely her nerves will benefit in the end.”
“What reduction in fanfare?” Mr. Bingley exclaimed. “If anything, so momentous an occasion is cause for twice the display!”
Both couples turned their steps back towards Longbourn, the ladies excitedly discussing the arrangements along the way. As they passed Lucas Lodge, they noticed a hired carriage in the sweep drive, bearing all the signs of recent arrival. “I believe it’s Charlotte!” Elizabeth cried, hurrying forward with Jane to greet their friend, who was now excitedly calling to them. The gentlemen stayed back, merely waving their greetings, not being on such intimate terms with the family as to intrude at such a time, but as soon as Mr. Collins noticed them, he left Sir William Lucas’ side to pay his respects.

“Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley! May I offer my sincerest congratulations on your approaching nuptials? As a recently married man myself, I can assure you both of the felicity of the state. Your aunt, sir, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, was in perfect health when we departed Rosings, though I am afraid not as enthusiastic as myself about your engagement to my amiable cousin Elizabeth.”

“I am sure I will hear from my Aunt herself on the subject.”

“That is to be expected, Mr. Darcy. While I fully feel the honor you do my family, your aunt cannot be expected to feel quite the same. For one of such dignity and lineage, it must not be the match desired. Why you chose my humble relative in favor of Miss Anne De Bourgh, such a superior specimen of her sex, is certainly no one’s concern but your own, sir, but Lady Catherine feels it most severely.”

While Darcy angrily endured Mr. Collins’ civilities, much to Mr. Bingley’s amusement, Charlotte gave the Bennet ladies a quick history of their departure. “Lady Catherine was so incensed that she blamed Mr. Collins for failing to marry you, Eliza. Under such conditions, you can understand my desire to be away.”

“Lady Catherine is insufferable! How dare she insult you so?” Elizabeth demanded.

“Surely she is just angry,” Jane suggested. “It is very wrong of her to use her dependents in such a manner, but she must be bitterly disappointed. It will pass.”

“My thoughts precisely,” concurred Charlotte.

“I am not so forgiving, or as practical, as you, and I have my own reasons for resenting Lady Catherine’s officiousness,” admitted Elizabeth, “but rather than be angry, I will thank the lady for sending you to Hertfordshire. You must come to Longbourn as soon as possible.”

“I will be there in the morning. For now, perhaps you had better rescue Mr. Darcy from Mr. Collins?”

“Indeed. Until tomorrow, my dear Charlotte.”

“Goodbye, Eliza. Goodbye, Jane. You cannot know how happy I am for you both.”


Upon returning to Longbourn, Mr. Darcy sought Mr. Bennet in his library, “May I have a moment of your time, Mr. Bennet?”

“Certainly, Mr. Darcy. Sit down.”

“I am pleased to be having this discussion with a man familiar with the whims of young ladies. Sir, I cannot apologize enough for my sister intruding upon your hospitality in such a manner. Never before has she behaved with such disregard to civility.”

Mr. Bennet’s eyes twinkled, “Does this mean that it was not my Lizzy who came up with the felicitous notion of hosting your sister? I suspected as much.”

“I cannot imagine what possessed Georgiana.”

“It is best not to worry yourself with trying to find reason behind a young lady’s behavior. Just accept it as unfathomable. We are happy to have her here at Longbourn, and that is all that matters.”

“Thank you, sir. I very much appreciate your hospitality and understanding.”
“Say no more of it, Mr. Darcy. It is the least I can do.”

The men shook hands and joined the ladies in the sitting room. Later that evening, when the visitors had departed, Elizabeth approached her father, “Shooting, long talks in the library: it seems you are taking pains to get to know Mr. Darcy, Papa, and I thank you for it.”

“Yes, your Mr. Darcy rises in my esteem by the hour.”

“I am pleased to think you find him an equitable companion.”

"Oh, be assured I admire all my three sons-in-law highly," said he. "Wickham, perhaps, is my favorite, but I think I shall like your husband quite as well as Jane's."


“Wickham! Oh Wickham! Wake up!”

The screech of his wife’s voice broke upon his pounding skull, which felt as though it were being crushed by a vise. He groaned and pulled a pillow over his aching head, struggling in vein to block out Lydia’s far from dulcet tones.

“George!” she cried, grabbing the pillow away. “You must rise at once, for I have just received the most astounding news. You shall never believe what has happened!”

He blinked, the light sending a sharp stab into his temple. Moaning slightly, he sat half up and glared at his excited wife, “Do you have any idea what time I retired?”

“Well after myself, I know, but whose fault is that if not your own? I have the most amazing news from Longbourn!”

Having been married long enough to know that Lydia’s whims were not to be thwarted without a good deal of exertion, he resigned himself to consciousness. “At least bring me some refreshment before you spew your gossip. I’m terribly parched.”

For once obedient, Lydia quickly poured a glass from the jug on the mantle and brought it to her husband, spilling a few drops as she plopped herself down on the edge of the bed. Wickham added a few splashes from the flask on the nightstand before drinking deeply. “Now,” he said once the draft was drained, settling himself back against the bedding, “I will listen to your news from Longbourn. You haven’t heard from your mother since Jane’s engagement.”

“Indeed, I have not. I am very surprised. I would have thought Mama would immediately inform me of events, or Lizzy herself, but instead it has been weeks since I have heard from anyone in Hertfordshire. I am only to find out now because Kitty, who really must have all the time in the world, wrote me a single, hasty page.” She flourished the offending letter, pouting pettishly all the while.

“Please, Lydia, just tell me what she said.”

Her smile returned, “You shan’t believe it, not in one hundred years. I never dreamed there was any attachment between them, and Kitty is quite vehement about the fact that this is a marriage of affection. What a shame we may not attend!”

He knew that it was not Lydia’s intention to build suspense by speaking in such a vague manner, but that she really was just flutter brained. If he were ever to bring an end to this inconvenient conversation, he must coax her into coherence. “Who is getting married now, my dear?”

“Why, Lizzy of course. Did I not just say so? What is astounding is the name of the bridegroom.”

Wickham felt a sinking sensation in his gut. It couldn’t be. Ignoring the pain in his head, he bolted upright and looked Lydia square in the eye, “It isn’t Mr. Darcy, is it?”

Lydia was all amazement. “But how did you guess? I was quite convinced they hated each other. Kitty says that they met often in Kent, when Lizzy was visiting Mrs. Collins, and again at Pemberley itself when she toured Derbyshire with my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. To think of Lizzy as mistress of such a grand estate! She will become quite insufferable, I am sure. But do think of it – my sister, Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley! La! That does sound grand, does it not? How ever did you know?”

Lydia did not wait for a response, continuing on in the same manner while Wickham, now fully awake, paced the room, lost in his own thoughts. How could he have been so stupid as to believe the tale Darcy fed him about why he became involved in the Bennets’ affairs! Always he had known that his former playmate was attracted to Elizabeth Bennet – Darcy could not hide such unusual admiration from him – but never had he imagined he would marry so very far beneath him. Not that he blamed him, for Elizabeth was one of the most attractive women he knew, and there were many in his acquaintance. Certainly she would make a far more agreeable wife than the one to whom he was saddled, thanks to Darcy. There was nothing to be done about it now but try and turn to good account the family connection. It was unfortunate he had laid his old story about the living at Kympton on Elizabeth, as she must now become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown. He knew she was not a lady to be fooled twice. His best avenue was her sisterly affection. He returned his attention to Lydia’s continuing diatribe.

“Though why Lizzy would not wish to inform me herself, especially of such a triumphant marriage, I cannot understand. Surely, she must wish to gloat. I certainly would.”

“Perhaps you should write to her,” Wickham interjected. “Your sister must be very busy right now, but if you express the correct sentiment, it might prove beneficial in the future.”

“I have no intention of writing to Lizzy, not when she cannot be bothered to do so for me!”

“Do you hope to visit Pemberley?”

“Oh, yes indeed! I shall enjoy it very much.”

“Well then, Mrs. Wickham, if you think Mr. Darcy is just going to invite us to be a part of his family party without an enormous effort on your part to maintain Elizabeth’s favor, you are sure to be disappointed.”

“I do not understand you! Why would Mr. Darcy exclude us, when he was so very obliging as to secure you a commission only a few months ago?”

“Mr. Darcy might be willing to put me in the way of advancement, especially if he thought it would keep both us far from his person, but I assure you he will not welcome us to Pemberley. We will have to mend a great deal of fences before receiving such an invitation.”

“Well! Do not expect me to grovel to Lizzy. Surely it is her duty to make sure we are well positioned. She cares very much for appearances, and it will not look good if she denies her sister admittance to her home.”

“Just write to her, my dear. No need to grovel. Express your congratulations sincerely, and she will reciprocate your goodwill. After that, who knows? Perhaps, eventually, she can even persuade Mr. Darcy to find me a position at court. That would suit us far better than Newcastle, would it not, my dear?”

“Oh George! Do you really think so? I never dreamed of such a thing! How handsome you would look in Dragoon raiment!” She threw her arms around his neck in an affectionate and choking hug.

Laughing, he pulled her arms from around his neck. “Go on and write then, Lydia. No time like the present.”

Inspired, Lydia hurried to gather her long neglected writing materials.

“And send up a tray wont you? I’m famished!”


It did not take long for Lydia’s congratulatory letter to arrive at Longbourn. Elizabeth read it with a great deal of aggravation, instantly determining that Mr. Darcy should know nothing of its contents. Needing to express her chagrin to some sympathetic ear, she turned, as of old, to Jane. Elizabeth found her in her bedroom, where she had been secretly monogramming several gentlemen’s handkerchiefs, a wedding present for Mr. Bingley. “Read this. I must know what you make of it,” Elizabeth demanded, handing Jane the offending missive. Jane put aside her work and read aloud:

I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my dear Wickham, you must be very happy. It is a great comfort to have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you will think of us. I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help. Any place would do, of about three or four hundred a year; but however, do not speak to Mr. Darcy about it, if you had rather not.

“Well?” questioned Elizabeth. “What do you think of our sister’s sentiments.”

“She should not write so,” Jane frowned. “It sounds as if they are exceeding their income and expect assistance from Mr. Darcy.”
“It does not just sound like it, Jane. Should we even expect anything less? What is to stop Wickham from racking up as many debts as he has in the past? Certainly not Lydia. She will only add to his output. And when they are on the verge of disgrace, who is to come to their rescue? Not my poor Fitzwilliam! I will not allow him to be so abused!” Elizabeth’s outrage inflamed her cheeks.
“Surely, now that he is a married man, Mr. Wickham must amend his ways. Soon they will be expanding their family, and what better to make a man rise to his responsibilities than progeny?”

“Oh, my dear Jane. You are too kind. Gladly would I have things transpire as you predict, but I cannot be so sanguine. No, if this is to be a model for Lydia’s future letters, she shall never write one I will allow Mr. Darcy to see. If they find themselves in need, I will do what I can for them myself, but I will not permit them to build their expectations on his good nature.”

“As Mrs. Darcy, it will be your responsibility to protect his interests, even when encroachment comes from your own family. Our loyalties are about to forever change, Lizzy. I hope, should the Wickhams ever attempt to intrude on Charles, that I will have your resolution.”

“You had better start cultivating it now then, as nothing is more certain than Mr. Wickham’s taking advantage of others. But no more of this. After responding, I shall burn the letter and ban both of them from my thoughts. How good of Fitzwilliam to find Wickham such a distant post that there is no danger of them attending the wedding!”

Jane tried to look sternly at her sister but utterly failed, as she herself felt the blessings of Newcastle’s remoteness far too much to frown.

It was a bright day, and while the weather remained seasonal, the sun beating down through the windows of the crowded carriage made it hot and uncomfortable. Not being as well-sprung as the Darcy vehicles to which she was accustomed, Georgiana found the rocking coach dizzying. Mr. Hurst, snoring loudly in a corner, added to her discomfort, and the short journey dragged endlessly on.
“I met Sir Ludlow at Mrs. Stanton’s just a few weeks ago, and ever since we see him regularly. He has called in Grosvenor Square three times and dined with us once. He was at the theater last week and joined our box for the entire second act.”

“Don’t forget, Caroline, that you also rode with him in the park.”

“Very true, Louisa, how could I fail to mention it? It was a lovely day, the perfect temperature for such activities, and Sir Ludlow was anxious to try the new team of grays he purchased. His attentions are very flattering, though I cannot possibly take them seriously.”

Georgiana wanted to close her eyes and block out as much of her surroundings as possible, but Miss Bingley was clearly expecting her to respond. “Do you doubt his intentions?”

Caroline look horrified, “No. Certainly not.”

“He has made it quite clear that he intends to propose upon our return to London,” supplied the more diplomatic Mrs. Hurst.

“Yes, but I do not believe I shall accept such a poor looking man, even if he is a baronet. Why, he is no taller than myself and wears a coat very ill. Besides, his estate is overdrawn.”

“Which is why we can be certain of his offer,” supplied Louisa, causing her sister to scowl.

The coach turned, placing the sun behind them, and Georgiana could once more look out the window without scalding her eyes. She thought they must be nearly there, and the approach of a quaint town raised her hopes of relief. Never was one of Miss Bingley’s complaints more welcome to Georgiana’s ears than when she said, “Well, here we are again. Meryton is such a worthless little town. I do hope Charles chooses to settle elsewhere.” She thought a few months spent so near to his new relations would serve as strong encouragement towards such a course, but would not say so in front of Georgiana, holding her peace until she and Louisa were alone.

Soon they were entering the approach to Longbourn, and Georgiana’s longing for release was replaced by anxiety for the forthcoming introductions. She fervently hoped the ladies of the house would like her, as she was terribly lonely for female companionship. The carriage came to a halt and several women filed out of the house to greet the newcomers. Miss Bingley donned her broadest smile for the Bennets, formerly so often snubbed, greeting both Jane and Elizabeth like the old friends they never were. The latter came forward to introduce Georgiana, and she looked with trepidation at the examining faces of what must be Mary and Kitty. However, before the girls could exchange even a few words, a matronly woman embraced her warmly, a strangely familiar gesture, suffused with comfort. “You look tired my dear. Travel is so fatiguing. Come inside and we will see you settled comfortably.”

Mrs. Bennet might terrify her brother and embarrass Elizabeth, but to Georgiana, so long deprived of maternal care, she was like rain in the desert. Mary and Kitty would wait. Girlish confidences would hold. For now, Miss Darcy was happy to bask in Mrs. Bennet’s fawning and over-attentive care.  

With Miss Bingley back in residence at Netherfield, she wasted no time enacting her plan to pay off every arrear of civility to the Bennets by issuing an invitation to the entire family for dinner, including the Gardiners, recently arrived from London. The Longbourn party came in two carriages, the first bearing Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, their two youngest daughters, and Miss Darcy, while Elizabeth and Jane rode with their uncle and aunt. Mr. Darcy smiled broadly as Georgiana entered the house, comfortably chatting with Kitty and Mary, Mrs. Bennet doting on her all the while: “There now Miss Darcy, we deliver you again into the comfortable presence of your dear brother.” The siblings greeted affectionately. “That is just what I like to see. Good brothers make for good husbands, as Mr. Gardiner proves. Miss Darcy would have preferred her silk pelisse – such a fine wardrobe! Kitty put the notion in her head that it is more becoming with this bonnet, simply nonsense! Miss Darcy looks very well in the kerseymere, and it is far more suitable on an evening such as this. We would not want her catching a cold, would we Mr. Darcy?”

Mr. Darcy marveled at such a statement from the woman who had sent her daughter out on horseback in the rain, but as her newfound zeal for his sister showed no signs of endangering Georgiana’s health, he merely smiled his agreement.
Miss Bingley greeted everyone warmly, and if her face grew tauter than usual when Mr. Darcy stepped forward with a warm welcome for Elizabeth, no one deigned to notice. When an attempt to draw off Georgiana for a quiet tour of the house quickly escalated into an excursion for the entire party (Mrs. Gardiner being particularly intent on surveying her niece's new home), Caroline's smile was perfectly gracious, for the world appearing as if nothing would make her happier than to guide a gaggle of noisy Bennets and their Cheapside relations through Netherfield. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth stayed behind, happy to steal a moment to themselves.

“I shall thank Miss Bingley for so adeptly maneuvering her guests as to procure this time alone for us. Surely that was her intention; do you not agree?”

“While I can willingly credit Miss Bingley's determination to make amends for former slights, I cannot go so far as to believe she is as pleased as she appeared with her current employment.”

“But her manner was so hospitable! She even learned to pronounce my name without that distinctive, nasal sneer she used to employ whenever she said, 'Miss Eliza Bennet.' She maintains the uninvited familiarity, but as she shall soon be Jane's sister, I will overlook the offense.”

“I must give her credit. A woman with less countenance could not hide her mortification so well, though her recent acquaintance with Sir Ludlow seems to be acting as a balm.”

“You think Miss Bingley has strong countenance? Should I be jealous?”

Darcy laughed, “No, but if you could cultivate her ability to find glory in everything I do, I would not complain. Instead, you only perceive my faults.”

“I am blind to your faults, Fitzwilliam Darcy. The only folly I ever perceived in you was of my own fabrication. It never existed.”

“Oh yes indeed it did, my dear, and I trust you to keep me in check from now on.”

“Soon we shall support each other, be it in improvement or folly, till death do we part.”

“Just one week more.”

“It feels an eternity.”

“It will all be a memory sooner than we realize.”
The next several days found Longbourn in even greater chaos than usual, as Mrs. Bennet strove indomitably forward towards her goal: nothing less than the most memorable wedding Meryton had witnessed in generations. Mrs. Phillips became a daily visitor, her sister claiming her presence invaluable as the only one who understood the state of her nerves, Mrs. Gardiner proving almost as unsympathetic as Mr. Bennet to their demands. Miss Darcy was finally brought to admit to her brother that life at Longbourn was not perfectly felicitous. She could not bear witness to Mrs. Bennet's spasms, which at first appeared debilitating, followed by a frenzy of activity only the stoutest individual could sustain, without realizing to her sorrow the lady’s ridiculousness, but Mrs. Philips's vulgarity was a far greater tax on her forbearance. However, when Mr. Darcy asked if she might be more comfortable at Netherfield, Georgiana stoutly refused any change in her abode. Mrs. Bennet might not be quite what she hoped, but she had been kind and loving to her, and she would not repay such hospitality by abandoning her now.

“Besides, Kitty and I are supervising several preparations. Mrs. Bennet would be beside herself were I to relinquish my responsibilities.”

“You could visit every morning from Netherfield.”

“But that is when Mrs. Phillips visits, so I should not be spared the real evil of the situation. She stares at me so, questioning Mrs. Bennet all the while about our family, as if I were not even in the room! It's nearly intolerable. No, the evenings are by far the most pleasant time at Longbourn. Kitty and I were up so very late last night, engaged in the most amusing conversation, I am surprised I could open my eyes this morning, but I feel perfectly refreshed.”

“I am glad you enjoy Miss Catherine's company. Of what did you speak?”

Georgiana looked askance, “Nothing I shall share with you, Brother.”

He laughed, “And I shan't attempt to force your confidence, no matter how my curiosity is piqued. I am glad to know you have made a friend. Do you spend much time in Miss Mary's company.”

She nodded. “We have been practicing together a great deal, and I hope I many not be accused of arrogance if I say it has resulted in some improvement in her performance. Mr. Bennet even said so. But she is not like Kitty, who is so very unreserved. I do not mean that negatively, only that she speaks so honestly and without disguise. I feel as if I could tell her anything, even about Mr. Wickham.”

“Have you?”

“No. It would not be right to say such things of her sister's husband, but I do hope she does not spend much time with them in the future. Kitty tells me Mrs. Wickham was always pushing her to venture into schemes with which she was uncomfortable. Such companionship cannot be good for her.”

“I think you have little to fear. But for when the Wickhams travel here, an expense that they are unlikely to be able to often afford, Miss Catherine will not be seeing her sister. Mr. Bennet sees the situation much as you do.”

“I am very glad to hear it.”
“I think we had better invite Miss Catherine to join us at Pemberley, as her companionship is so very agreeable to you. What do you think of the notion?”

Georgiana's face lit up. “Oh yes! That would be delightful, as long as Mary doesn't feel slighted.”

“I have already discussed it with Elizabeth, and she assures me that Miss Mary's sense of duty would not allow her to abandon her parents. We will have her to Pemberley another time.”

Georgiana's obvious pleasure warmed Mr. Darcy's heart. They were comfortably ensconced in Mr. Bennet's library, the only room in the house where any privacy was at present to be had, while their host was about his business on the estate. When Elizabeth knocked on the door to join them, his happiness was complete.

“I am not intruding?”

“Not at all.” Georgiana rose and hugged her. “Fitzwilliam just told me about inviting Kitty to Pemberley. I am thoroughly pleased with the idea. Does she know yet? May I tell her?”

Elizabeth laughed, “Of course! We thought it best not to say anything until you approved. She is in the store rooms, overseeing the inventory.”

Elizabeth watched Georgiana depart before commenting, “She seems much happier. Was it a difficult conversation to have?”

“No. She was honest about her discomfort, but has not the least intention of decamping.”

“I wish I could better shield her from the frequent notice of my aunt. You I can keep to myself, and to those of the family with whom you might converse without mortification. Georgiana, here in the heart of bedlam, is harder to shelter.”

“A few more days will bring an amendment to the situation.”

“So they will.”

Elizabeth and Darcy drank in the silence, enjoying this rare moment alone, until the loud chatter of young ladies shattered their momentary peace. “It seems Georgiana found Kitty.”

“And that her news was taken well. I hope you do not regret your generosity to my sister. Her presence will certainly enliven Pemberley.”

“I am looking forward to it. She will keep Georgiana entertained while I engage in more important business.”

Elizabeth blushed, but any uncomfortable feelings arising from his look only added to her hope for the future. She looked forward with delight to the time when they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at Pemberley.


“Lizzy? May I come in?” asked Jane, with a perfunctory knock at her bedroom door.

“Of course! I was just organizing my correspondence. Will you help me decide what to keep and what to burn? It is so hard to know what will have meaning and permanence in this new life, and what should be banished to the past.”

“I know what you mean, though it is easier for me. There are several items of childhood memorabilia I am leaving behind for now, knowing I can easily transfer them to Netherfield later.”

“Here are your letters from London. Shall I relegate those to the fire?”

“Most certainly. It will not do to remember such times.” She sat beside Elizabeth on the bed and glanced over the sad lines written in such misery, though she had struggled to hide it, when all hope of Mr. Bingley seemed lost. Acting upon her own advice, she cast them into the hearth. “I found the book of pressed flowers I made when Lydia was born, as well as the collection of riddles we never finished. Remember what a nuisance we made of ourselves, quizzing all the neighborhood for submissions?”

Elizabeth laughed, “Was that not intended as a wedding present for Aunt Gardiner? It was so very long ago, I can hardly believe it is now our time. I hope the absence of two pushy children doesn’t bode ill for our future contentment.”
“Are you nervous?”

“Yes, but it is a happy feeling. In many ways I am sorry to leave Longbourn, but as I have every reason to believe that the future holds far more pleasures for me than I have ever been accustomed to, it is easy to overcome such regrets.”

“I will miss you terribly.”

“Oh Jane! As will I! When I think of you, Derbyshire seems farther away than ever before.” The sisters embraced, trying beyond possibility to convey all their many hopes and fears for the future though loving arms. They were interrupted by Mrs. Bennet, who insisted they get to bed in order to be in their best looks on the morrow.

“We will write so often and at such length that our husbands might very well fear for their purses,” laughed Elizabeth as she pulled away from her dearest sister.

“What nonsense, Lizzy! Mr. Darcy has ten thousand pounds! You may write as often as you wish.”
The wedding day dawned cold but fair. While Mrs. Bennet attended to last minute details, Mrs. Gardiner assisted Jane and Elizabeth to dress. Both wore elegant white muslins: Jane's whiteworked and Elizabeth's embroidered with primroses. Mrs. Gardiner smiled approvingly at both ladies as they happily adjusted each other's gowns, relishing the knowledge of what delights lay in store for her favorite nieces, so blessed as to be marrying honorable men whom they loved. Their beaming faces assured her of their felicity, and she said a silent prayer of thanks that circumstances had worked out as they did.

At Netherfield, the gentlemen gathered in the hall as they waited for the ladies to appear. Colonel Fitzwilliam had arrived the evening before, and Miss Bingley immediately made him the recipient of her attentions. Such determination requiring of her a much longer time than usual to be expended on her dress, Mr. Darcy was left to pace the floor impatiently, while Mr. Bingley stared at the stairwell, his pallor tinged green, all to the Colonel's great amusement. When Caroline and Louisa finally began to descend, both grooms were out the door and in the waiting carriage before they reached the bottom step. At one time, such a slight would have raised Miss Bingley's ire, but as the Colonel graciously took her arm and escorted her to the door, she overlooked the slight.
Friends and family assembled at the church to see the double wedding, all of whom proclaimed the brides beautiful, the grooms beaming, and the recitation superb. Mr. Bennet was particularly affecting as he proudly gave away his eldest daughters. Those in attendance who knew his disappointment over Lydia's marriage had some notion of how deeply he appreciated the characters of his new sons. He kissed Jane before placing her hand in Mr. Bingley's and then performed the same office for Elizabeth, whispering, “You will always by my little Lizzy,” before taking his seat. Those invited to partake of the wedding breakfast had the satisfaction of being able to declare it the most complete of its kind. If Mr. Hurst found fault with the preparation of the ham, no one paid him any heed, least of all his hostess.

Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. With what delighted pride she afterwards visited Mrs. Bingley, and talked of Mrs. Darcy, may be guessed. I wish I could say, for the sake of her family, that the accomplishment of her earnest desire in the establishment of so many of her children produced so happy an effect as to make her a sensible, amiable, well-informed woman for the rest of her life; though perhaps it was lucky for her husband, who might not have relished domestic felicity in so unusual a form, that she still was occasionally nervous and invariably silly.

Very different sensations belonged to Lady Catherine when she read the wedding announcement in the paper. Fortunately, by that time Elizabeth and Darcy were well on their way to Pemberley, and Lady Catherine was the farthest person from their minds.
The End

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