Elizabeth is reminded of the first time she saw Pemberley as she and Darcy arrive to start their new life together.
Elizabeth Darcy looked out of the carriage window as they crossed the ancient stone bridge on the road into Lambton village, instantly recognising the clutch of stone cottages, the church, and several handsome buildings that formed the landscape. She remembered the first time she’d seen this very countryside when touring Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle Gardiner and how she’d dreaded the thought of being so close to Pemberley. Last August the trees had been dressed in their finest emerald leaves, but now winter was on its way and fingers of pale sunlight slanted through bare branches lighting up the leaves scattered on the ground in tones of amber and gold. Elizabeth recalled her mixed emotions about visiting Pemberley, dreading that Darcy might be there, but also overcome by a curiosity to see the house where he lived. Remembering her feelings of mortification as if it had been yesterday, she couldn’t help smiling at the memory of bumping into him in the grounds. After all, there could have been a very different ending to their story if she hadn’t been persuaded to visit the house by her uncle and aunt.
‘Penny for your thoughts, my darling?’ Mr Darcy took her hand, raising it to his lips.
‘I was just remembering last summer, and the first time I came to Pemberley. How different were my feelings then.’
Fitzwilliam Darcy studied Elizabeth’s countenance noting her amused expression.
‘Are you talking of your feelings for me?’ Darcy kept his gaze steady upon Lizzy’s eyes. ‘I think you must have despised me when you first arrived.’
Mrs Darcy’s eyes flew wide open in horror. ‘Oh, do not say such a thing. I did not exactly despise you … I did not know what to think. You were the first person in my life whom I could not puzzle out. Everything I thought I knew about you seemed to be contradicted one way or another. And the truth was even when I thought you were the most odious man that ever walked the earth, a small part of me was fascinated by you.’
‘And what did you think when you first saw me walking towards you that afternoon?’
‘If I could have reversed time and spent an extra day with Mr Collins for my sins, I would have done it. I was so embarrassed, I think you must have seen how dreadfully uncomfortable I felt.’
‘But I was too busy being mortified myself. And yet, I could not help thinking how very beautiful you looked and how perfectly you fitted into the Derbyshire landscape.’
‘You always say the loveliest things, my darling, even if I’m sure you must have been thinking what a nerve I had to show my face. It was all quite a blur, but I do remember thinking how very different you looked in your own setting, how you seemed more at ease in your surroundings. A thousand thoughts crossed my mind in those seconds. Your countenance wore none of its usual strain or pride, I remember, and you instantly made me feel less awkward. I was made to reflect a little on your housekeeper’s words. She’d told us how kind you were as a master and I could not help thinking I had misjudged you. Her description of you as the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted boy in the world came from the heart and from that very moment my mind was quite changed about your character.’
‘Your housekeeper … Mrs Reynolds is your housekeeper now.’ Darcy squeezed her hand. ‘I know she is looking forward to serving her new mistress.’
Elizabeth took a deep breath. The enormity of her new situation in the Pemberley household was beginning to strike home. ‘And I am looking forward to working with our housekeeper and learning how to run a great house.’
Mrs Darcy turned her face towards her husband and hoped he could only see the part of her that was thrilled and ready to face her new challenges. She was excited by the prospect of her new life with the man she adored, and yet at this moment Lizzy felt unequal to the task. She wanted to be the perfect wife and mistress of Pemberley, and wished Jane were there to reassure her that everything would turn out for the best in the end.
They were entering the village and turning into the high street when Elizabeth cried out in surprise, for lining both sides of the road it seemed the entire population of Lambton had turned out to greet them. Caps and hats were thrown into the air as deafening cheers and enthusiastic applause rang out from every side. The faces of the villagers, young and old, peered into the carriage as it trundled past, and the same wishes of joy were heard over and over again.
‘God bless you, Mr Darcy, and God bless you, Mrs Darcy. Welcome to Derbyshire! Three cheers for the lady!’
‘Oh, how delightful,’ Elizabeth cried. ‘What a turnout! Look at the children running alongside, it’s easy to see how everyone loves and adores you.’
‘I do not think they are in the least bit interested in me,’ said Darcy who nonetheless felt very touched by the scene. ‘Pemberley’s new bride is the object of their curiosity and their good wishes, and I know you do not disappoint them. You look a picture, my dearest.’
Elizabeth gripped her husband’s hand tighter as they passed through the village on the last leg of their journey. The landscape rose on every side, the Derbyshire hills majestic in their setting, and when the familiar wooded slopes came into view, Lizzy’s heart somersaulted. The park seemed larger than she remembered and as the carriage climbed up through beautiful woodland Elizabeth was reminded of her visit last August once more. When they arrived at the top of a considerable eminence where the wood ceased, she remembered with great anticipation the remarkable sight, which would next come into view. Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of the valley, looked more magnificent than any memory she could recall. She couldn’t help feeling excited and when she met the gaze of her adoring husband Lizzy knew she was about to embark on the happiest time of her life.
‘Welcome my dearest, Elizabeth; welcome to Pemberley, and to your new home,’ said Mr Darcy planting a sweet kiss on her cheek.
They descended the hill, crossed the bridge and drove to the door, where Lizzy could see a reception party waiting for them. Georgiana Darcy, looking rather nervous, stood at the front with her governess Mrs Annesley and waved when she saw them. Elizabeth hoped above all things that they would continue to get along together as they had on their first meetings in the summer.
‘Dearest Mrs Darcy, I have been waiting so long to call you by that name. I am delighted to welcome you to Pemberley,’ Georgiana said, rushing forward and curtseying before Elizabeth as she stepped down from the coach. Mrs Annesley was introduced next, and then Mrs Reynolds stepped forward to offer her very best wishes on the occasion.
‘Thank you for such a wonderful reception, you are all very kind,’ Elizabeth said, and turning to Georgiana she added, ‘I hope you will be so good as to teach me all I need to know about Pemberley, Miss Darcy. I am quite relying on you to show me the ropes.’
‘It will be a pleasure, my dear sister, and please, let us not stand on ceremony. I hope you will call me Georgiana.’
‘And you must call me Lizzy, as all my other sisters do. Isn’t this exciting? I admit, I felt rather nervous before we arrived, but having you here makes me feel completely at home.’
Mr Darcy stared after them aware that he seemed to have been totally forgotten, but secretly pleased to see that all his schemes and plans to gain the heart of the woman he loved and getting her under his roof had finally come to fruition.