Part 4 – Future Promises of Felicity

The rooms were full of guests, Darcy noted with some exasperation. It seemed Mrs Bennet had invited each of the four and twenty families in the neighbourhood all at once. Mary played in the drawing room, where a few couples danced, and there were also guests playing cards, drinking sherry and laughing loudly. Having lost sight of Elizabeth within such madness, he thought to exit into the hall for a moment of quiet, where he happened to find her.

“Fitzwilliam,” Elizabeth whispered and grabbed his hand. “Come.”

“We may be missed,” Darcy remarked with some unease as they entered her father’s library.

“I doubt it, and I want a moment alone with you,” replied Elizabeth cheerfully. “There has not been a minute since the weather has turned and you will leave me in the morning.”

She went to the window and pushed back the heavy drapes. “Are the stars not bright?”

Darcy removed his gloves and came to stand behind her, running his fingers over her bare arms as he adjusted her shawl. She had been in such high spirits for most of the evening and seemed very much herself – half-arch, half-teasing, half-earnest, entirely sweet. When she tilted her head, Darcy turned his lips against the soft skin of her neck, his lips curving when she sighed. “Do you like this?” he whispered into her ear.

She quickly turned in his arms and kissed him fully on the mouth. “Very much,” she whispered between kisses. “I never understood love would be like this.”

“I suppose I must relinquish my grudge of Lieutenant Lucas after all.”

Elizabeth looked up in surprise at his serious tone, only to laugh in delight at his teasing smile. “You should be ashamed, sir, to mortify me in such a manner. Perhaps Bingley may provide the sort of assistance as did my aunt?”

“As if he would notice,” Darcy replied in fond amusement. “There would not be much to report in any case — a slight admiration or two, but never love, never this,” he murmured before the room grew silent and Darcy returned his lips to her throat with more boldness than he had ever dared. When he found himself overcome, he buried his trembling lips into the crook of her neck with a happy sigh.

Elizabeth touched his head after a moment, and he looked up. “I meant to thank you, for echoing my invitation for Kitty to come to Pemberley.”

Darcy frowned in confusion, saying, “I did nothing to be thanked for it.”

Elizabeth glanced back toward the window. “You deserve my thanks, and Bingley and Jane seemed to think likewise, for your assistance in settling the quarrel. My father should not allow her to go to Newcastle but I do dislike disagreements, in particular those aired before the entire family.”

“I agree Catherine should not go,” Darcy replied decidedly. “Even so, I would not like to be called a silly girl.”

Elizabeth laughed. “I should think not.” She turned back to him, her expression earnest and said, “I know you will not speak to your child in such a manner. Perhaps I should not speak so, but I am relieved.”

Darcy took her cheek into his hand. “Speaking your private thoughts to me does not diminish your affection or respect for your family, not in my eyes. I am honoured by your confidence, and I will always wish to know your mind.”

“That should not worry you,” Elizabeth replied lightly as she straightened his coat.

Darcy smiled a little, though he said in all seriousness, “You may tease me but I do intend to consider your opinions and take care of your happiness.”

“And your happiness is dear to me.” She reached up to touch his hair, smiling at his tender look. “I have wished all day to see such an expression on your countenance.”

Her shawl slipped to the floor, and Darcy kissed her shoulder for a delicious moment. She whispered, “You endure it all rather well. With Sir William and Mr Collins in constant attendance, I should not wonder if you were to lose your composure. I grow weary of it myself.”

“We shall be married in another fortnight,” Darcy responded, raising his head to look at her with grave joy. He hesitated then said, “If the weather were nicer, I should have liked to take you on a proper wedding trip.”

“We could wait to marry in the spring, as my father suggested.”

Darcy smiled at her amused look and stated, “I am not so obliging as that. I learned of a place, a cottage, where we can go.”

He took her hands and blushed as he said, “I know this is not normally done, but I want to be alone with you — no visitors, no servants, no sisters. Do you mind?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Do we not plan to eat or bathe in this cottage? What shall we do without servants?”

She suddenly blushed. Darcy bit back a smile and said gently, “I intend to find them lodgings in the village. Worry not, my love, I shall not starve you. Would you be willing to go to such a place…with me?”

Elizabeth nodded and reached up to kiss him.

*****
“These bedcurtains were an excellent addition, sir,” Darcy’s housekeeper said to him as they inspected the mistress’ chambers. “They will keep Mrs Darcy very warm, I think. I have instructed the maids to keep the fire built up in anticipation of her arrival but these rooms are draughty.”

Darcy flushed but Mrs Tate did not appear to notice. He had ordered the bedcurtains for privacy as he had a rather different idea on how Mrs Darcy would be kept warm. The entry of the maid prevented him from flushing again. “Colonel Fitzwilliam is here to see the master, ma’am.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam was in his book-room, drinking his brandy when Darcy entered. “Forgive me my presumption, cousin. I endured a cold ride.”

Darcy told him to think nothing of it and poured his own glass. “How is my uncle?”

“Recovering from the shock,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said gravely as he took another sip. “He expected you to marry beauty and fortune, you know. As did I, in fact.”

“Those ambitions were never mine, though I owe you my gratitude for your interference with him.”

“So you intended to marry a young lady with little fortune or connections?”

Darcy frowned with impatience, even knowing Robert’s words to be more teasing than sarcastic. “That is not my meaning. I intended to marry a woman whom I could respect and honour for more than her dowry. I have found such a wife.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam smiled. “You always were rather idealistic.” He quickly turned sober again and said, “What of Miss Bennet’s opinion?”

“I am in no doubt of her agreement.”

“Forgive me; I do not intend to disparage either of you, but I had received the impression she found you rather insufferable.”

Darcy flinched at his cousin’s perception. Robert had known, where he had been too astounded and delighted by Elizabeth, struggling with what he had viewed as an unwise connection to understand her feelings against him. “I am aware of her former opinions. I convinced her to change her mind.”

Robert appeared distinctly amused, much to Darcy’s exasperation. He asked in a terse tone, “May I ask what you find amusing, Robert?”

Robert began to grin. “I am trying to imagine you seeking to please a woman with poetry and pretty words. She must be a most forgiving sort of creature.”

Darcy rolled his eyes. “I would not be so foolish.”

Robert laughed, “No, I imagine not. I do wish you happy. I found Miss Bennet very charming and very pretty, if too poor for my tastes.”

Darcy raised an eyebrow and smiled a little. A wide grin formed on his cousin’s face and Robert gleefully added, “Were you jealous, dear cousin, of my charm?”

Darcy pursed his lips. “I have never been jealous of your dubious charms though I did wonder at your sudden good taste to choose her as an object.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam shook his head with a smile. “I am glad I made her acquaintance. I have never seen my father in such a temper with the exception of last summer. You know this will not be easy for her? Even beyond the family?”

Darcy shrugged. “She has some understanding of the situation and I will assist her. I hope to never give her cause to regret her choice and I know I shall never regret mine.”

Robert stared in amazement and then laughed, “I never thought to see you in such a passion over a woman! I believe this will be incredibly amusing. Cheers, old man.”

They talked over other matters and after Colonel Fitzwilliam departed, Darcy went back into Elizabeth’s chambers. She had told him not to think of the past unless it gave him pleasure, but his cousin’s reminder did give him pause. He recalled those months spent in Brook Street following her refusal of him, when he thought her irretrievably alienated from him due to his arrogance and pride. There were moments even now when he could hardly account for his current happiness.

He smiled at the sudden image of Elizabeth, leaning against a tree, asking if he wished to reconsider his offer. If he had ever doubted her worth, she would have convinced him at that moment. The thought of her willingness to sacrifice her own happiness, even her reputation, filled him with pride at having won the love of such a woman. He was not so starry-eyed to think their families would not continue to grieve or vex them but the depths of their attachment could endure such trials.

A slow grin spread over his lips as he pictured her within her new chambers, hopefully with him often by her side. It seemed with the wedding drawing closer, his thoughts turned more often to how he wished to delight her behind those sweetly drawn bedcurtains. He walked quickly back into his own room and sat at the desk to write, eventually adding a new sheet to the rest of his letter. He deliberated a moment over the prudence in sending such a note to her, filled with sentiments she might view as presumptuous or frightening. No, she will understand. After all we have endured, I can make her understand if she is shocked. With that confidence, he addressed the missive and sent it on its way*.

*****
Mr Bennet put down his book at Lizzy’s knock and bade her to enter. He smiled when Elizabeth brought the tea things and set them down on a nearby table. “No wedding raptures in this room, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth gave him a merry smile. “I promise not to talk of lace or ribbons. There is plenty of such talk in the drawing room, if we feel inclined for it.”

“I see how it lies, then! I am to serve as your escape, though I am happy to hear you have some use for your father.”

Elizabeth handed him a cup with a creased brow Mr. Bennet took her hand and said less sardonically, “I cannot expect otherwise; young ladies will replace their fathers with a young man. It is the way of things.”

“I cannot replace you, Papa, not even with Mr Darcy,” she replied quietly.

Mr Bennet peered at her over his spectacles. “So you will remember me when you settle in Derbyshire? Enough to relate all the follies to be found in the neighbourhood?”

Elizabeth said lightly, “I shall write, sir, and you will come and visit me, will you not? The library alone is enough to make the trip worthwhile for you.”

“Perhaps this spring, if you invite me, I will come,” Mr Bennet managed to reply, speaking for the first time of her departure.

“I do invite you, whenever you are able to make the trip.”

Mr Bennet looked at her in surprise. “What would Darcy think of your father showing up on your doorstep without notice?”

Her softened expression was truly affecting when she replied confidently, “He will not mind it and has encouraged me to invite my friends.”

“In that case, I shall visit when you least expect me.”

He asked Elizabeth to sit with him, and they talked for some time, laughing over the wedding preparations and the reactions of the neighbours. Eventually, he said, “I will never know how I kept my countenance when Collins bowed his apology to Darcy for winning another hand and continued to bow in face of Darcy’s growing displeasure. He entirely mistook Darcy’s annoyance at such delightful simpering for irritation at losing half a pound to him!”

Elizabeth began to laugh, and he added, “Darcy is a good deal more forbearing than one might assume, though I hope you will teach him to take some delight in folly.”

Elizabeth smiled fondly. “He does, though not as much as you or I. In this case, I think it easier to delight in such attentions when you are not the object of them.”

“Very astute, my girl.”

Hill interrupted them at that point, bringing a letter addressed to Lizzy. “Not from Lieutenant Lucas, I hope?”

“Sir!” she cried with a little laugh. “You and Mr Darcy both take too much amusement at my expense.”

Mr Bennet smiled, pleased by evidence that her husband might have some humour about him. “I am surprised at you, Lizzy. Should you not take such a letter to your room where you may blush and sigh at your leisure?”

“Mr Darcy is not one to send me verse. He says the preparations are nearly complete, and he will return with Miss Darcy on Tuesday.” Elizabeth turned to the last page and suddenly folded the letter, blushing violently.

Her father roared in laughter. “Run along and read your letter unless you would like to read it aloud. I think I might find some amusement in that.”

Elizabeth smiled with flushed cheeks and went upstairs. Mr Bennet chuckled for a moment and returned to his book. The room grew still and silent, and eventually he sighed to himself. How I shall miss you, my child.

 – 
When Monday came, Elizabeth found herself rather dispirited and disconcerted by her dullness. She could pursue other activities, visit and laugh with family and friends, even take pleasure in such activity, yet her days seemed painfully wanting without Darcy. She had asked to spend the morning at home, and her appearance was enough to convince her mother not to object.

She had determined to burn his letter from last April and had nearly dropped the first page into the fire when the morning room door opened. “Elizabeth?”

She gaped at Darcy, then cried in delight, dropped her shawl in her haste to stand and met him halfway. He instantly seized her in his arms, her toes momentarily lifting from the floor, and they kissed with abandon until both were breathless. “How flattering to be missed, dearest, and how I missed you! How am I fortunate enough to find you alone?” he said against her ear.

She turned her glowing cheek into his hand. “My father is in his book-room, and everyone else is at my aunt’s. I felt unequal to joining them.”

Darcy stepped back to look her over again. “You are not ill?”

She shook her head, grabbed his hand and led him to sit at the table beside her. “A little melancholy perhaps. Everything was rather dull without you.”

“Was it, my love? I can sympathize, though I can hardly believe you would feel the same,” Darcy replied, not relinquishing his tight grasp of her hand. “When I finished early, my sister took pity on me and suggested we might travel a day ahead of our plans.”

She poured him a cup of tea and conversed with him on the details of his business and the journey. Expecting Mr Bennet to join them shortly, she gathered up her writing. Darcy glanced at her letters, and upon recognising one, he was enough startled to set his teacup down. “I thought you agreed to burn that dreadful letter.”

“I intended to this morning; I had read it once more, and then you arrived. You may burn it if you wish.”

He took the offered letter and looked at the worn corners and smudged ink with an incredulous expression. “Why would you continue to read it, my dear? I cannot imagine you wishing to nurture such antipathy.”

She smiled a little at his bewilderment and replied happily, “At first, because I wanted to discredit the contents entirely. Then to ponder how I had misinterpreted your character to suit my vanity and to reproach myself for my unkindness to you. Now I am grateful.”

“I cannot begin to comprehend you,” he said solemnly. “My words were bitter and resentful.”

“Some of them, perhaps,” admitted Elizabeth, “but can you imagine what may have occurred had I not received it? I would have never comprehended my faulty understanding, nor would I have altered my opinion of your character when we met again. I owe much of my present happiness to your letter.”

Darcy took her hand, kissed it and threaded their fingers together. “How I love that in you, which would overlook such resentment and harshness to allow for gratitude. I never intend to test your regard in such a way.”

Elizabeth placed her other hand over his, and whispered solemnly, “Nor I. We both have learned much since then, I think.”

He smiled at her, then placed the pages in the fire. “I would be more uneasy,” Elizabeth remarked once she had torn her eyes away from the burning sheets, “had I not another letter to replace it.”

“Ah yes,” replied Darcy as they both blushed. “That was written in an entirely different spirit, I think. I hope I did not shock or offend you.”

She met his gaze directly. “There was shock perhaps but not offence.”

He turned her hand over and pulled back her sleeve, holding her gaze as he kissed her wrist. When her father did come, she would have been hard pressed to recall any part of their conversation, unable to keep the dazzled smile from her lips. Darcy now spoke before her father with more ease, though perhaps not as he did before the Gardiners or Jane. She could more clearly form an idea of what her life would be with him and decided the next few days could not pass soon enough.

 – 
*Dearest,

I write these words to you on a separate sheet, as they are not meant to be shared, not even with your dear Jane. I hope I will not offend you, that you may understand my sentiments as those of a man most passionately attached to you and will excuse me if I speak too frankly.

I am in my chambers where I have long been content, at least until I knew I loved you. As pleased as I am to have your affection, I am a rather selfish man it seems. I can picture you at this very moment, teasingly in agreement, yet I am in deadly earnest. I wish you were in the mistress’ chambers at this moment, allowing me to express my most ardent affection without any regard to maidenly decorum. Are you now shocked, my love?

Though your affection has been all that is generous and pleasing, I must admit to anticipating more from Mrs Darcy. I have inspected your bed, found it warm and inviting, and I cannot but hope you will welcome me there when the night draws to a close until the sun does rise. How I wish you may find the pleasure and satisfaction in my embrace which I know I shall find in yours. We need not speak of this when I see you; indeed, I can hardly imagine it, yet I cannot restrain myself from this one expression, imprudent as it may be. I look forward to seeing you in a few days’ time,

Fitzwilliam

Go to Part 5

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