Good question! I like smart readers.
All things will be revealed in the fullness of time. Or, at the end of this post, whichever comes first.
As always, comments are required. I’m counting on you to fulfill your part of the bargain. Just sayin’.
Chapter 58 (continued)
She accepted me! She loves me!
My dearest Elizabeth forgave me and accepted my suit. She will be my wife and helpmate and lover and mother of my children and—most importantly—my best friend. Life will never be any sweeter than the moment she confessed her love for me.
How did she answer me, you ask? Ah, ah, ah—a gentleman never tells. Let me say my response was affectionately effusive and left Elizabeth with absolutely no doubt of my esteem and constancy.
After everything was settled between us, I told her of Lady Catherine’s visit to me after her own interview with her. Elizabeth laughed when I said that her refusal to refuse me gave me hope like never before.
“Yes, you know enough of my frankness to believe me capable of that. After abusing you so abominably to your face, I could have no scruple in abusing you to all your relations!”
Delightful woman! We entered into a small disagreement about who was most at fault at Hunsford. I, of course, took the lion’s share, for what did Elizabeth say that I did not deserve? For her part, she denied it all, blamed herself for blindness and prejudice, and owned herself heartily ashamed. I could not have that, and detailed in full all of the faults of character she inspired me to overcome. There were tears in her eyes at the completion of my recital.
Our conversation turned to my involvement with her sister and Straw for Brains. The proud gaze with which she gifted me, when I admitted that my gravity at Lambton was solely due to my instant resolution to hasten to London in quest of her sister, made me feel like one of the Knights of the Round Table.
“What could become of Mr. Bingley and Jane?” Elizabeth laughingly speculated. I knew not, although I suspected that Bingley used the opportunity of finding himself alone with his intended to good purpose. As we strolled on the public road, I could not do likewise, no matter how much I hungered for Elizabeth’s sweet lips. (And yes, her lips are sweet indeed, as I have verified numerous times since.)
We next talked of Bingley, and Elizabeth’s archness returned when I admitted I had guided Bingley back to Netherfield. We continued to speak uninterrupted, until we returned to Longbourn.
Chapter 59 –
Dinner at Longbourn was a dull and frustrating experience. Jane and Bingley, as the acknowledged lovers, talked and laughed and were talked and laughed about. Elizabeth and I, however, remained silent, for I had yet to speak to Mr. Bennet. It did not help that my physical distance from Elizabeth was as great as the dinner table would allow. I had Mrs. Bennet on my right and Miss Mary on my left. Neither was of a mind to converse with me, a wish I echoed. Elizabeth was of a like mind, for she was unusually quiet. Her blushes when she glanced in my direction were the saving grace of the evening. Only my self-control prevented me from staring at Elizabeth the whole time like a love-sick puppy.
When we parted, Elizabeth whispered that she planned to tell Jane of our understanding, and I said I would do the same with Bingley.
As I suspected, Bingley had no idea of how things stood between Elizabeth and me.
“Miss Elizabeth? My word, are you in earnest? You are to marry Miss Elizabeth? I declare, you have entirely surprised me! I never saw a thing of it!”
“Bingley, my friend, have you seen anything but your angel since Miss Bennet accepted you?”
Bingley laughed. “Too right, there! Is not Jane perfect? But Miss Elizabeth? I thought she disliked you!”
My mirth faded a touch. “She did. But she changed her mind.”
Bingley grinned, a knowing look in his eye. “Or perhaps you changed it for her. I know there is no stopping you when your mind is intent upon its purpose.”
“Bingley, you have no idea!” I told him of Hunsford and my determination to change my ways. His astonishment grew and we talked on into the night.
As we retired, Bingley patted my shoulder. “Darcy, you are the most humbling friend. I wish I knew of your struggles, that I could have been of service to you. But you did it all on your own and won the prize. Congratulations. Ha! You will be my brother in truth! Wonderful!” He paused, suddenly thoughtful. “Caroline…”
“Yes… Caroline,” I said.
“She will not be happy.”
“I expect not.”
Bingley shrugged. “I suppose we will just have to get her married.”
“Gad! Leave me out of this!” I protested, but Bingley would have nothing of it.
“She will be your relation, too, and I know you like nothing more than to be of service to your family.”
Blast! He knows me all too well.
The next day verified I am lump-headed idiot. One look at Elizabeth’s dear face when Bingley and I walked into the Bennet’s parlor proved that I knew nothing of ladies—nothing at all. How could I have confused Elizabeth’s saucy looks before with the clear adoration in her eyes now? I was a hundred times a fool. I hope I have improved since.
Mrs. Bennet suggested that Elizabeth, Miss Catherine, and I walk out to Oakham Mount. Fortunately, Miss Catherine demurred. During our walk, Elizabeth confided that she was instructed by her mother to suffer the inconvenience of walking out with me and keep me out of Bingley’s way.
“She trusts you alone with me?” I smiled. “She may yet become my favorite Bennet.”
Elizabeth’s laugh held more than a little of nervousness and I vowed not to take too much advantage of the situation. I behaved myself until we reached the summit, where we shared our first kiss. It was all I ever dreamed about.
We did talk, too. It was decided that I should approach Mr. Bennet after dinner. I think Elizabeth wanted to spare me her mother’s raptures of joy at news of our engagement. I agreed to her request, but I also let my beloved know that I would bear anything to be by her side.
She smiled. “Well, sir, with my mother, it seems you shall have a lifetime to prove it!”
To say Mr. Bennet was surprised by my petition would be an understatement. The gentleman was flabbergasted.
“You… you wish to marry Lizzy? My Lizzy?”
“Indeed, sir.” Having learned my lesson from my first proposal, I dealt with only the pleasant aspects of our proposed union. In short, succinct sentences, I assured Mr. Bennet of our mutual affection and my intention that Elizabeth would be well-cared for.
“And… she has accepted you?”
I thought I had made that clear. “Yes, sir.”
He blinked. Obviously such an idea had never occurred to him. “Very well, young man. You have my permission and my blessing.” Perhaps it was my imagination, but I think he hesitated on the word blessing.
“Very good, sir. I shall have the marriage articles drawn up for your approval straight away.” I bowed.
Just as I made to leave, he asked, “Pray tell Lizzy I would like to talk to her, Mr. Darcy.”
After my interview with Mr. Bennet, I tried to relieve Elizabeth’s anxiety with a small smile. I approached the table where she was sitting with Miss Catherine, I whispered her father’s request, and she was gone directly.
With nothing else to do, I took Elizabeth’s seat, to her sister’s surprise. I pretended to admire her needlework. “That is lovely, Miss Catherine,” I observed.
“Kitty,” she said timidly.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I prefer Kitty. Catherine sounds so… serous.” She laughed nervously. “I should hate to be called serious. Papa says I am not serious at all.”
Too right, there.
“Serious is so boring. None of us are serous, except Jane and maybe Lizzy. Not that they are boring, of course! No one would call them boring.”
“No, I would not.”
“Oh! Mr. Darcy, I do not mean to call you boring, even though you are so serious!”
I cannot take offense at her foolishness. She is young, after all. “No, you have the right of it. I am afraid I am very serious and, therefore, boring at times.”
She looked at me with wide, surprised eyes. “I think you are teasing me.”
I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. “Do you think a serious man like me is capable of teasing, Miss Kitty?”
I could see her mulling over my statement. She finally brightened. “I think so, yes.”
I nodded, sat back and pulled from my pocket a book of poetry to read. For the next hour, I lost myself in the verses of Scott until Elizabeth returned. Her relaxed smile was all I needed to assure me all was well. There was no announcement, no celebration—that was for another day. The time passed tranquilly away until Bingley and I made our exit.
“I tell my mother tonight,” was Elizabeth’s whispered farewell. Her apprehension of the upcoming interview was transparent.
“That should be eventful,” I replied.
“That is remarkably easy for you to say, sir!” she returned with mock severity. “Off with you!” As I began to turn, she added softly, “And be all the sooner tomorrow, I pray.”
“You may depend upon it, my dear.”
Chapter 60 –
The weeks of our courtship were delightful. My lovely Elizabeth became again the intriguing, impertinent imp I fell in love with almost a year ago. Was it a year ago? I do not know for certain. Elizabeth even asked me when I had fallen in love, and I could not answer. I was in the middle of it before I knew what I was about.
“My beauty you had early withstood,” she claimed soon after our engagement, her enchanting eyes twinkling, “and as for my manners! My behavior to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now be sincere—did you admire me for my impertinence?”
“For the liveliness of your mind, I did.” I did not add her light and pleasing figure had haunted my dreams for months. She would learn of that soon enough.
“You may as well call it impertinence at once!” she laughed. “It was very little less. The fact is you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused and interested you because I was so unlike them.”
How very true.
“Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it,” she continued, “but in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just. And in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There—I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it! And really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you knew no actual good of me—but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.”
Fall in love. I kissed her heartily for that.
The Bennets were very surprised at our news. Mrs. Bennet could not utter more than a polite request as to my opinion of what to serve at dinner for almost a week whole! It did not last, of course, but I began to see her silliness in a more understanding light, particularly when I compared her behavior to my aunt’s.
Lady Catherine took my engagement as a personal affront. She wrote to all her relations and friends, demanding that they renounce their acquaintance with me for as long as “that scheming baggage pollutes the shades of Pemberley.” My uncle, the Earl, shared his sister’s message with me, you see. As I hoped and expected, my remaining Fitzwilliam relations were far more reasonable, withholding any opinion about the matter until Elizabeth was introduced. The countess was instantly charmed, and by the end of the evening the earl privately admitted that I could have done far worse. It did not hurt that Georgiana and my cousin Fitzwilliam were strong supporters of Elizabeth. As for the Viscount and his wife, they agreed not to oppose the match. That is the best I can hope from that quarter.
“The treason of the family,” (Lady Catherine’s words, not mine) sent my aunt into a rage. She has refused to communicate with any of us. Small loss. I am sorry for Anne, though.
Elizabeth’s family and friends were far less taxing. Oh, Mrs. Bennet struts about Meryton, crowing over her “clever Lizzy’s good fortune” as if she herself had anything to do with our engagement. If she drops one more hint about throwing Elizabeth’s remaining sisters into the path of rich men, I think I will drink myself into a stupor. Mr. Bennet has exerted himself to actually emerge from his library—I swear he acts like a bear with a cave—and speak with me. We get along pleasantly, as long as I let him occasionally win at chess. Miss Kitty has taken pains to know me, which is more than I can say for Miss Mary. As for Elizabeth’s other relations in Hertfordshire, the less time I spend with Mrs. Philips, the better.
Compared with her, I can tolerate the parading and obsequious civility of Mr. Collins and the inane comments of Sir William Lucas with reasonable ease. I just nod at the appropriate moments, keep my face as neutral as possible, and shrug only when no one sees me.
I do not spend a moment’s time thinking of Useless or his bride.
The true joy at our happiness from those closest to us—Georgiana, Fitzwilliam, Bingley, Jane, Mrs. Collins, and the Gardiners— were all I could hope for. They made the time between our betrothal and wedding pass as pleasantly as one could wish.
However, I must admit Elizabeth’s behavior during our season of courtship was a trial. Not that she was anything less than a delight. That was the problem. Elizabeth made it her purpose in life to shield me from the ridiculousness of her acquaintances by stealing away with me as often as could be managed. The temptation she offered! As my darling girl had no true understanding of the effect her intoxicating presence had on me, I was forced to exercise great willpower by reminding myself I am a gentleman, and thereby should resist the innocent inducement of my intended. It was a very great struggle, particularly since Elizabeth took prodigious pleasure in kissing me when least expected.
The trials of being me.
Chapter 61 –
As I look back on events, I am relieved that everything is over and done. Marriage to my dear Elizabeth is more pleasing than I ever hoped for. We are of one mind about almost everything, and when we are not, we find the most delightful way of “convincing” one another of the validity of our opinions. I find losing such arguments not distressing in the least.
I recall very little of the marriage ceremony, except how beautiful Elizabeth appeared descending the aisle on her father’s arm. As for that evening, I will only say I shall never forget the breathtaking sight of her coming to me with her hair down about her shoulders. Other memories are mine and mine alone.
I am elated that Elizabeth wishes to spend most of our time here at Pemberley. I think sometimes she loves the dear place more than I. Chief among its manifold charms is its remoteness, particularly from Hertfordshire! I will not say I do not get along with my new family, but distance makes my heart grow fonder when it comes to Longbourn, principally for my new mother. It is a relationship that should not be endangered with close intercourse. Happily, Elizabeth agrees with me.
If only Mr. Bennet would stop appearing at my doorstep at the most inopportune times! Drat the man! At least he loses himself in my library; if we are fortunate, we only see him at dinner.
I wagered that Bingley and Jane could only last a year at Netherfield, and I was right. Elizabeth forgave my smugness over the prediction when I found an estate for the Bingleys not thirty miles from Pemberley. Now, there is good company and no mistake!
To be honest, my sister Catherine—no, Kitty. I must remember that she wants to be called Kitty—my sister Kitty has been good company, too. She spends the majority of her time visiting us or the Bingleys. She and Georgiana have had a good influence on each other and are now as thick as thieves.
I cannot say the same about my other sisters. Mary remained at Longbourn, and I see no material improvement there. As for Lydia and He Who Shall Not Be Named, the less I hear about those two, the better. I wish I could say they did not have their hands in my pocket, but I can afford a little occasional generosity and make Elizabeth happy, as long as Straw for Brains never sets foot in any of my houses. So I grumble and make a show, help Useless in his profession, and make sure I am at Matlock or on a shooting trip with Bingley when Lydia comes to visit.
I never thought I could change so. Elizabeth even convinced me to forgive my Aunt Catherine for her intolerable interference and invite the old hag to Pemberley. Wonders of wonders, she came! To this day, I do not know if it was to see if Elizabeth could bear up to the responsibility of managing Pemberley (my thinking) or if the irritating battle-ax actually owns some affection for me (Elizabeth’s insistence). Elizabeth is probably right. She usually is.
Ah, guests are at the door! The Gardiners are here for the summer. Excellent!
It takes a real man to write historical fiction, so let me tell you a story.
Now, the rest of the story. MR. DARCY’S P&P POV (the abridged version) may be found in its entirety in the Austen Variations Free Books section (that’s HERE). Enjoy!
Also released is my fourth novel, THE COMPANION OF HIS FUTURE LIFE, from White Soup Press. It’s available in print from your favorite on-line bookseller and in eBook format from Kindle.
The hits keep coming with my release of the Audiobook version of MR. DARCY CAME TO DINNER. Michaela James did a fantastic job with it. Check it out at Audible.