At Austen Authors we have spent a year revisiting the events of Pride and Prejudice from the points of view of the other characters. In November at austenauthors.net, we will celebrate the anniversary of the Netherfield Ball. This excerpt revisits the later part of Austen’s classic. This is after the second proposal.
AT LAST CAME THE DAY when the Bennets welcomed him at Longbourn. In such awe of Darcy, Mrs. Bennet had kept her comments to herself, except to offer him any attention or to mark her deference for his opinions. Mrs. Bennet was beside herself to have two daughters so well placed, having Jane at Netherfield was one thing, but having Elizabeth at Pemberley would be an honor for the whole family. Mr. Bennet sought Darcy’s opinion again on the estate. He and Elizabeth’s father had walked out over some of the property, and Darcy’s sharp eye for details had impressed Mr. Bennet. They also spent time discussing the marriage articles. All in all, it was a perfect beginning for Darcy’s new role in Elizabeth’s life.
“Mr. Darcy,” Mr. Bennet said, as they sat in Longbourn’s library, “Elizabeth has told me of your part in saving my other daughters’ reputations and your dealings with Mr. Wickham. It is my intention to repay you, Sir, for your efforts.”
“Mr. Bennet, Sir,” Darcy knew this conversation was inevitable. “My portion in Mrs. Wickham’s marriage settlements was nothing I could not afford. I freely admit to doing so for selfish reasons. To give relief to Miss Elizabeth was my motivation. It was never my intention for the Bennet family to feel an obligation to repay me. I desired Elizabeth’s affections, not her gratitude. You repaid me ten fold by giving me your daughter, Sir. Give me your respect as Elizabeth’s husband and keep your money, Mr. Bennet.”
Mr. Bennet chuckled. “Elizabeth also tells me you took great amusement in choosing Newcastle for Mr. Wickham’s commission.”
“It was the best I could do on such short notice,” Darcy said with a wry smile.
“Mr. Darcy, your value as a son is increasing by the moment. Of course, you will have to go some to overtake my affections for Mr. Wickham. I am afraid I have a propensity for choosing amusing characters such as our own Mr. Collins and the affable Mr. Wickham as my favorites. Unfortunately, the only foolish thing I can pronounce against you is that you gave your money to two of the most frivolous people in England.” The man winked at Darcy. “However, you have made up for such a grievous fault by falling in love with my Lizzy.” Darcy was not accustomed to such tongue-in-cheek teasing from a gentleman, but he found nothing offensive in the conversation as he settled in to the comfort of Elizabeth’s home.
* * *
Over supper, Darcy received the pleasure of sitting beside Elizabeth; Mrs. Bennet had added several special dishes to the meal in hopes of pleasing the gentleman. Although they were too rich for his taste, Darcy complimented his future “mother” several times. Under the table when no one watched them, Elizabeth rewarded him with a squeeze of his leg just above the knee. Although all too brief, the warmth of her hand burnt his flesh, and Darcy required several slow, deep breaths to not betray his desire for her to the others.
As he, Bingley, Miss Bennet, and Elizabeth had planned earlier in the afternoon, Jane Bennet opened the discussion of the wedding with her mother. “Mama, while you were in Meryton, Lizzy, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and I made some decisions regarding our wedding.”
“Day,” Jane corrected. “Elizabeth and I have chosen a double wedding. We shall share our wedding day with friends who will then become brothers.”
“That is such a romantic idea,” Kitty sighed.
“Oh, my dears, how exciting this is!” Mrs. Bennet gushed. “Think of it, Mr. Bennet; both daughters married on the same day. They were always so close.”
With a heavy heart, Mr. Bennet spoke to his eldest daughters. “I will miss you, Jane. I will miss you, Lizzy. The house will seem empty without you.” Elizabeth reached for her father’s hand and squeezed it gently; then she looked to Darcy for support. He stroked the back of her free hand with his fingertips and smiled at her; she returned a weak smile, which said I hate to hurt my father. His normally formidable Elizabeth had a soft spot for her father. If Darcy were to keep her happy, he would need to encourage Mr. Bennet to be a regular visitor at Pemberley.
Bingley, who had been designated by the couples to share the remainder of their plans, cleared his throat. “Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Darcy and I have decided to apply to the archbishop for a special license. None of us wish a large wedding; a few select family and friends will suffice for our tastes.” Darcy would not mention that this would be most difficult. When Elizabeth, as a means to shorten the wait for the banns, suggested this idea, Darcy had offered caution to his friend regarding the possibility of the archbishop offering a license to anyone not of the aristocracy. Before they could approach the archbishop, he would have to tutor Bingley on the protocol and instruct his friend to strengthen his weak link to the Earl of Griffin.
Mrs. Bennet’s very animated brows climbed high upon her forehead. “Oh, Mr. Bennet, did you hear? A special license. What an honor! Our daughters to be married under a special license! Mr. Darcy! Mr. Bingley! Jane! Lizzy! I am so happy. Oh, Mr. Bennet!”
“I hear, Madam. I am certain the whole village will hear shortly,” Mr. Bennet said in exasperation.
Darcy’s more formal manner of speaking brought everyone’s attention to the details. “Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth and Miss Bennet have chosen a date: Monday–a fortnight. We hope this is acceptable; your daughters have expressed a desire to celebrate the Festive Season in their new homes.”
“Of course, Mr. Darcy,” Mr. Bennet began, “but that leaves very little time for settlements and marriage articles.”
“This is true, Mr. Bennet, but Mr. Bingley and I are capable of handling all the legal matters in a short period if you will provide us time after supper. Bingley and I can meet with you separately or the three of us may address common concerns together.”
“Naturally, Mr. Darcy,” Mr. Bennet said reluctantly, knowing finalizing such plans would mean his two eldest daughters would soon be gone from his home.
“But, Mr. Bennet,” his wife interrupted, “our daughters will be married by a special license! I did not know I could be so happy.”
Elizabeth added, “Mama, Jane and I only require a few new items for our wedding clothes. We can manage with careful planning.”
“My only concern,” Bingley added quickly, “is Miss Bennet will not have an opportunity to make all the changes she wishes to Netherfield before the wedding.”
Jane Bennet sparkled with love. “Charles, that is of little concern. The changes may be made after the wedding. We have time. All the time we required.”
“What of Pemberley, Elizabeth?” Kitty asked.
“I would not wish to make any changes.”
“What is it like?” Kitty continued. “Is it as beautiful as reported?”
Interested in her description of his home, Darcy turned his full attention on the woman he loved.
She stammered a bit at first, but her description reflected her vision of their future. “Pemberley…Pemberley is pure…pure perfection. It is a handsome, stone building backed by high woody hills. It sits on rising ground, and every detail of it reflects the natural beauty of the estate. I truly have never seen such a place! The house reflects Mr. Darcy’s heritage but also his taste; the interior is simple sophistication.” Darcy’s smile could not be contained; Elizabeth had seen Pemberley, as did he. She had not spoken of its wealth, but of its natural beauty.
“Pemberley is magnificent,” Bingley assured. “I hope some day Netherfield is a shadow of its splendor. Mr. Darcy’s family has left him a great legacy; Miss Elizabeth will be living in what is considered to be one of England’s finest homes.”
Darcy acknowledged his friend’s accolades with a humble not of his head. “Netherfield has the potential for greatness, Bingley. No estate’s greatness happens overnight.” Then he turned to Elizabeth, “Do you not wish to change something in your new home?”
“Fitzwilliam, I would not be so presumptuous! Georgiana and I may choose little things once we all are settled. Pemberley is perfect the way it is.” Darcy gave her that look with which she was now so familiar and which created a tumultuous state in both of them.
When the gentlemen departed, Miss Bennet and Elizabeth walked out with them. Bingley and Darcy had completed the settlements with Mr. Bennet, and plans for the ladies’ clothing requirements were well underway. Jane and Bingley had walked toward the arbor; Darcy led Elizabeth in the other direction. Surprisingly, when they took shelter in the shadows of an overhang, she boldly wrapped her arms around Darcy’s waist. He enveloped her in his embrace. Both actions were uncharacteristically brazen for a newly engaged couple.
“Elizabeth Bennet, you take my breath away,” he whispered close to her ear. “It is difficult for me to accept that we will finally be together.”
“Fitzwilliam, I can think of nothing but being your wife, but please, Love, do not fret so about the past. Any arbitrary turning we might take along the way would bring us to another place and to someone else. The journey we made brought us to this time and this place. This is where we were always meant to be.”
“Do you know to what I look forward?” Darcy had a mischievous smile.
“Being able to kiss you whenever I take the notion.” With that said, he claimed her mouth.