It’s time for the final extract from Lizzy’s journal as Lizzy Bennet’s Diary concludes below! I hope you have enjoyed them, and thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout the posting of the story. You are all brilliant!
A couple of things of note: firstly, as these extracts only cover Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship as far as their engagement, they do not touch upon the US ending of the 2005 film; this chapter does, however, go a little beyond the UK ending, as I felt a little dissatisfied with it and wanted to end it a little more romantically! I hope you will forgive the liberty.
Secondly, for anyone who has followed The Darcy Brothers, you will notice a similarity in a childhood name of Darcy’s near the end of the chapter. This is not coincidence – I first used it back in 2006 when I wrote this story and recalled it when writing a particular scene in The Darcy Brothers and decided to use it there too!
If you’ve missed the other chapters, you can find them in the Readers’ Library here at Austen Variations.
Lizzy Bennet’s Diary
Extracts from the Journals of Miss Elizabeth Bennet
Longbourn, the 27th day of September
He loves me yet! And I am to become Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy – how shall I bear such happiness as this?
Longbourn, the 28th day of September
I could scarce hold my pen steady last night; my joy is all consuming, flowing from my toes to the very tips of my fingers. I find myself smiling at naught and struggle to contain the laughter bubbling up inside me, such is my delight in my altered circumstances!
Yet a day such as yesterday warrants no little attention in these pages and though I must own paying court to my journal was never furthest from my mind than when I finally retired for the night, this morning, I feel it incumbent upon me to record here the outcome of my early morning walk, for has not this book of mine witnessed every nuance of our acquaintance, both fair and foul? Indeed, were it not for the comfort derived from pouring my thoughts and feelings into these very pages, I feel sure madness would have taken me, and I would therefore not be sensible of the good fortune that has befallen me. As such, I shall endeavour to be calm and direct my thoughts back to when I set out in low spirits for my solitary dawn ramble.
I had walked out into the dim light of a pre-dawn morning shrouded in mist; a morning typical of any other in early autumn. It was fortunate I had thought to throw on my old familiar coat, for there was a distinct chill in the air, and I hugged it close to me as I walked, seeking both its warmth and comfort.
My mood upon entering the garden could not have been more depressed. Not only had the brief glimpse of Mr Darcy the day before reopened tender wounds, but the knowledge he was even then likely to be preparing for his departure for Town brought a sweet sorrow all its own.
The shock of Lady Catherine’s visit the night before had receded somewhat, and I found myself shrugging off the encounter – for what good could come from dwelling upon such things? How she even heard such a report was beyond my comprehension, and her insults towards myself and my family only served to remind me of one immutable truth: I am not the only person with the honour of relatives whose behaviour sometimes beggars belief.
My feet seemed to know their own purpose, for whilst I remained deep in my thoughts, they led me across the footbridge and into the fields beyond… the pasture land lying between Longbourn and Netherfield Hall. What their intent was in taking that direction, I know not. My eyes were cast down as I kicked my way through the damp grass, yet suddenly a strange feeling took hold.
I cannot explain whence it came, but an inexplicable sensation swept through me, and I slowly raised my head and glanced to my left… and there he was: Mr Darcy. My first instinct was to dismiss the sight as a figment of my imagination, so focused had I been upon the gentleman in question. Yet with a heartfelt sigh, I acknowledged he was real; this was no apparition. Even now, a day later, as I sit here in the warmth of the sun, I shiver – my skin tingles at the very memory…
A myriad of thoughts passed through my mind as Mr Darcy approached, not least of which was how he came to be there at such an hour. That his rest had been as disturbed as mine had not occurred to me until he confirmed it.
I had little enough time to school my thoughts into any semblance of order, nor for tempering my emotions; indeed, the impropriety of our meeting, un-chaperoned and at such an early hour, dressed as I was in my nightclothes, failed to register upon me at the time. I might well be shocked at my own lack of regard for such things, but it is not so. I hold little doubt he was equally unaware of my state of dress, for it was some time before I finally took note of his own dishevelled look. In truth, it was an unbidden memory tugging at the recesses of my mind that finally brought it to the fore.
For his appearance was not dissimilar to when he delivered his letter to me at Hunsford Parsonage… but I am somewhat distracted once more – perhaps because I can yet recall the warmth of being held against him, feeling the fabric of his riding coat against my cheek, the comforting strength of his arms about me and the steady beating of his heart below my ear. But I am ahead of myself… casting my eye back over these dreadfully chaotic meanderings, I see I was recalling his approach across the field.
I am certain there were previous moments in our acquaintance when I was forced to admit to likenesses in the turn of our minds; indeed, a perusal of some of the earlier pages of this book would surely prove my point. Yet I do not think we could ever have been so closely aligned in mind and spirit as we were at the moment when we met in the field, both attempting to walk off the effects of a troubled and sleepless night.
As I knew not what to expect from this encounter, all I could do was stand and wait, and try to steady my heart, which was beating fit to burst within my breast. A formal greeting was quite beyond my powers of speech, yet contrary to my expectations, words did come forth from my lips, though with no apparent thought for decorum or politeness. We tumbled unconsciously into a brief but rapid discourse; before I had time to feel appalled to learn he also had suffered a visit from his aunt (or to reflect upon the repercussions), he was responding to my offering of thanks for Lydia and Jane’s current situations by saying words which robbed me of both coherent thought and breath.
It is most fortunate silence was the response best suited to his avowal, for I could not have formed a word should even my life have been in jeopardy. Then, as the import of what he was saying, his avowal of constancy, struck me, I felt a rush of emotion flood my body, and I had to swallow hard on a sudden constriction to my throat.
Stepping even closer (enough to steal what little composure I had left), he soon left me in no doubt whatsoever over the depth of his feelings for me. My eyes fill with tears even now to recall his expressive declaration. Was any woman ever so fortunate as I, to hear such words said with such genuine warmth? I declare it to be impossible. His taking such a step, despite the damning connection of Wickham, despite my harsh words at Hunsford, despite everything, was almost beyond my comprehension and most certainly beyond my wildest dreams.
Bereft by now of any remnant of good sense, adrift on a wave of happiness the like of which I have never felt before, I could still find no words; yet I knew I must act, respond a way which would quickly reassure him of my acceptance. All these notions rushed through my mind in a matter of seconds, swiftly succeeded by a vivid memory of his voice speaking his earlier proposal: “Please do me the honour of accepting my hand”.
And then I knew what must be done; I stepped forward without further hesitation, took his hand in mine – I know not whence the courage came (I am determined to call it courage, for fear I might have to accept I was indeed brazen rather than brave) – and pressed my lips against it.
How my face warms to recall the look upon his face: the depth of his gaze, the gentle touch of his hand upon my cheek. I could sense his vulnerability, knew there were words I must express, yet we seemed unable to break eye contact until by unspoken mutual consent we slowly moved forward to rest our brow upon each other. How I savoured this moment; we stood like so for I know not how long. I was conscious of the sun’s rays as they filtered through the trees, even then beginning to spread a little warmth upon my skin, as the early morning mist slowly diminished around us. I felt anchored in a harbour of love and safety, unwilling and unable to break the spell which seemed to have been cast upon us.
I cannot believe I write such words! How I would laugh if perchance I happened across a book that dwelt upon such sentimental notions! Yet it is the truth of the matter.
At some point we both stirred. I felt a little hesitant to meet his eye after such a connection, conscious of my forwardness in making the gesture I had; yet the shyness could not endure, and we smiled at each other – our first shared smile of true understanding. Each minute seemed to improve upon the last, such emotions did his every look stir within me. We studied each other with open curiosity for a moment; I know not if his thoughts turned upon the same, but for myself I must own having the freedom to look openly into his eyes for the first time, to study every nuance of his face at such proximity, was a pleasure I anticipate repeating often.
We turned then instinctively for Longbourn, my hand now tucked securely in the crook of his arm, and as we paced slowly across the wet grass we began to talk. It is most fortuitous Lady Catherine made her officious visit to us both – for it is to her I am indebted for this state of contentment. She gave him such hope he could no longer wait until his next visit to Hertfordshire to know his fate.
It was, however, reassuring to learn we were not solely indebted to her Ladyship, for he did confess he would have returned soon enough. He admitted he had felt he simply could not let me go without attempting once more to ascertain the current state of my affections – but who knows how long we would have stepped around each other, convinced of each other’s indifference as we were?
Needless to say, upon our arrival at Longbourn it did not take us long to acknowledge the folly of our actions. My absence had been detected, but being the habitual early riser and walker I am, there had been little concern over my apparent “disappearance”.
My reappearance was quite the contrary: attired in nothing but my nightgown and an old coat and on the arm of a rather informally dressed Mr Darcy, it soon became clear that I was the cause of no little upset.
As it was, the distress and consternation caused by this apparition was sufficient to render Mama temporarily speechless (a matter for which I later commended him – though he did confess he could not always promise to walk about dressed thus merely to bring respite from Mama’s effusions).
Papa’s raised brows and stern expression were replaced by a puzzled frown when he learned our visitor had come to speak with him; Mama mouthed like a fish out of water, Mary’s eyes widened and Kitty attempted to suppress a burst of giggles – poorly, I might add. Jane’s eyes darted between us both, and then a smile spread across her face – (she confessed to me later Bingley had entertained the notion there might be something, but Jane had denied the possibility).
How impatiently I paced outside Papa’s library! No doubt it was a wait of little more than a few minutes, yet it felt like ten fold. None of my family had known of my growing feelings for him; Mama had never been anything but uncivil towards him. Papa to be fair had never commented one way or the other, but must have been as deceived in general as most of the local populace as to his true character. How or if his perception had altered once Wickham’s true nature was revealed, I knew not.
But soon the suspense was over. Papa was surprised and not a little concerned at first, but his realisation of the sincerity of my love and respect led him to willingly give of his consent. Then, knowing as he does now to whom we are beholden for Lydia’s salvation, he expressed great relief. It would seem Papa can live far more comfortably with being indebted to my husband than to my uncle!
Our reunion outside was all I could have wished. He caught me close, and I savoured being wrapped in his warm embrace. Privacy, of course, was lost to us until we determined to walk to the lake; I knew full well the habit of my family to eavesdrop behind doors but remained confident they would refrain from the indignity of using trees for the same artifice.
And so at last the moment came when both the opportunity and my presence of mind permitted me to let him know how much he means to me, how very deeply I love him. My cheeks grow warm once more, and my stomach clenches as I recall my… our… first kiss. How can something one has long tried to imagine be so much more than ever anticipated? I can still feel the pressure of his mouth against mine… but then, perhaps that is because I have more than just one kiss to recall!
Had it not been for our mutually perceived need to return to our respective residences to make ourselves respectable in attire, I doubt either one of us would have relinquished the refuge we had secured by the lake. But part we did. He borrowed a mount from the stable, promising to return it with a servant forthwith and to return himself that afternoon; his delay in his return to Town meant he had some tiresome matters of business to attend.
I repaired to the bedroom, shadowed closely by my dear Jane, who could not rest until I had told her all. Her surprise was great, but she spared me after only a little teasing over my reactions the previous day, both to his unexpected visit and that of his aunt. She then left me to my daydreams, as she was expected at Netherfield for the remainder of the day.
I have taken a moment to read back through the pages I have filled this morning and am much amused to note I have barely acknowledged Darcy by name, so subconsciously ingrained in my thoughts has he been of late. But I will persevere with my good intentions, and attempt to complete my description of yesterday.
And so Darcy returned at last, yet my delight in his particular company was short-lived, hampered as we were by that of everyone else. No more than five words did we manage to exchange during an interminable afternoon, before he became trapped behind closed doors with Papa, and as dusk began to fall I was in despair of even seeing him before he must take his leave.
Even when we were reunited and gained some privacy in the drawing room, our weariness from our sleepless night caught up on us and before either of us was aware, we had drifted into a deep repose.
We must have slept for some time, for the next thing I recall was being woken in the most delightful way – it makes me blush to think of it… the pressure of Darcy’s lips leading a trail across my cheek towards my mouth finally roused me from my pleasing slumber. There, I have written it! I was kissed awake, and how it makes me smile! Indeed, it is fortunate that the drawing room door was closed… though how it came to be we know not, for we most certainly left it ajar upon entering the room.
There was barely time to pretend an admonishment for such behaviour (and reward his efforts) when we became aware of a disturbance out in the hallway, and we assumed a respectable distance between us before the door was thrust open and Mama entered, followed by Bessie with a laden tray of tea and cake. Indeed, such was the rapidity with which the room then filled, with Jane and Bingley, Kitty (accompanied by both hounds), Mary and finally Papa, I have my suspicions they were outside the door all along, waiting for some indication we were awake.
As far as we can detect, supper had long been over, and Papa had decided we had slept long enough. Mama’s sense of hospitality had refused to let send the gentleman off without offering some form of refreshment, and Bingley had apparently reinforced the notion, reminding his friend he had now missed both breakfast and supper all in one day, and how was anyone expected to sleep on such an empty stomach?
The following hour soon passed, as time will when such contentment is to be found. The drawing room was rather congested, but pleasantly so. Seats were lacking and as Jane insisted upon joining me on the couch, pulling Bingley down beside her, Darcy and I were thus obliged to sit closer together to make room. There are times when I suspect I have under-estimated my dear sister!
But I do not complain – far from it. With the general distraction of such a crowd, and our proximity to each other, it gave us the opportunity for some long overdue private discourse, of which there had been little since morning. It is most odd to look back upon that hour and recall we were indeed in company, for our low-voiced conversation was of a relatively intimate nature, and the novelty of our situation and the tentative discoveries we were making of each other caused more than one blush to stain my cheeks, and Darcy to flex his fingers nervously at times – until I boldly repeated my action of the morning, and took his hand in mine to still his agitation.
His surprise upon my doing this was evident; yet I would not relinquish his hand and with a small nod from him, and a squeeze of my own hand in return, we continued our discussion.
We were speaking of his given name. I had referred to his letter, whence I learned he was named Fitzwilliam, and this mention of events at Hunsford had given us both a second’s pause and no little discomfort. However, the conversation proceeded to take a lighter course. Darcy revealed that only his parents had ever called him by his full name, his sister and his cousins calling him Fitz. Miss Darcy, being so many years his junior, had struggled as a young child to master this; then, much to my delight, he confessed for some time she referred to him as “Fish”, and it was only when she was old enough to comprehend the matter, it evolved into the correct derivation – something his cousin, the Colonel, had made much sport of over the years.
I was unable to suppress my amusement at this disclosure, but was deeply touched a man whom I had believed uncomfortable with the notion of being laughed at would share such a story. It was agreed between us that in privacy, I too would call him Fitz, but I could not resist implying that I may not be able to resist joining Colonel Fitzwilliam in having some difficulty in forgetting his sister’s charming initial endeavour!
And there – I am done; the day is recorded for posterity’s sake. I am struggling to contain my desire to be in Darcy’s company once more and must cease my ramblings to summon Bessie. Today, we are all invited to Netherfield for dinner, and Jane and I are to visit this afternoon so that she may go over the house with Bingley and his housekeeper. It will give us all an opportunity to talk further and make our plans without the constant interruptions Longbourn presents.
Much as I love my family, and tolerant of them all as Darcy was yesterday, I believe it only fair he be allowed some respite from their somewhat overwhelming presence. Yet I must acknowledge here finally that Mama was suitably restrained in Darcy’s company yesterday – I believe she remains in some awe of him, though she did have the temerity, upon his departure last night, to beg him to forgive her for her initial dislike of him!
I know not how I did not draw blood, so hard did I bite my lip to stop my laughter from bubbling up over Darcy’s response. I shall look forward to emulating my soon-to-be husband, for his expressionless countenance as he replied was the work of a master: “I have come to the understanding that it is a family trait, Mrs Bennet, and one that I am practised at pardoning.”
Once again, many many thanks to everyone who has commented on, shared and Tweeted the chapters over the past ten weeks. Special thanks go also to Janet of JT Originals for the lovely drawings and the covers she made for the story.