Part 5 – Leaving Longbourn

The next day, Darcy brought his sister to Longbourn. Elizabeth had been a little pained to discover he had not planned to bring Georgiana into Hertfordshire until a few days before the wedding and yet, within a quarter hour, she thought she understood him. Georgiana was very different from her sisters, rather overwhelmed by her family’s enthusiastic discourse and could scarcely open her lips.

Her mother and sisters were somewhat in awe of Miss Darcy, which thankfully restrained them from their most vulgar remarks and upon their discovery of her inability to speak, they turned their attention to Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst. Darcy seemed relieved as was Elizabeth. She smiled at Georgiana, hoping to set her at ease. “Your brother shared your kind letter with me, Miss Darcy. I thank you for it.”

After inclining her head, Georgiana shyly whispered, “Your sisters call you Lizzy, though my brother refers to you as Elizabeth. Would you mind very much if I did the same?”

Elizabeth smiled and agreed, touched by the diffident request and the tender expression on Darcy’s face as he said, “I am certain you would wish her to do likewise, would you not, Georgiana?”

A look of alarm spread over the young girl’s countenance. “I did not think to ask! How careless of me.”

“Do not distress yourself. You must have been very surprised to learn of our news, Georgiana,” Elizabeth responded gently.

Georgiana shook her head and said quietly, “Fitzwilliam had spoken highly of you in his letters and I did so wish to meet you. When he asked me to call on you in Lambton, I thought he must admire you very much.”

Elizabeth beamed at Darcy and then teased, “I suspect the entire village must wondered at such an honour though they never would have suspected your purpose.”

Georgiana’s eyes widened. Darcy seemed unperturbed as he rested his hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder, asking, “And why would you make such an assumption, my dear?”

Elizabeth clasped his hand briefly, blushing a little at the unexpected pleasure of his touch. “Mrs Reynolds assured us that there was no one good enough for you to marry. I hope she shall not be disappointed.”

Darcy flushed, and Elizabeth smiled in delight. He crossed the room after a minute to speak to Bingley, obviously comfortable enough to leave his sister in her care, and she was surprised when Georgiana began to speak. “I often thought as Mrs Reynolds,” Georgiana said, her cheeks slightly flushed, “although I never doubted he would eventually choose a lovely wife.”

The young girl glanced at Darcy, her eyes full of adoring affection, then looked at Elizabeth with an earnest expression very similar to her brother’s. “I hope I am not impertinent but I am so very, very happy for you both. I have never seen him so content, and he is dear to you, I can tell.”

Elizabeth found herself more touched by those sincere, timid words than any other tidings she had received. She clasped Georgiana’s cold hand. “I am very fond of him, and I hope you and I may become quite friendly, for his sake, of course, and my own. I have never lived without my sisters.”

A beautiful smile spread over Georgiana’s delicate features. “I would like that very much, Elizabeth.”

 – 
At the end of the evening, Elizabeth pressed a letter into Darcy’s hand. She would not look at him, he noted with some alarm, until she whispered, “A response to your note, Fitzwilliam.”

Darcy tucked the note in his pocket. “When I see you next…”

Elizabeth glanced at him with a smile. “I will be the small one in the white hat, with the veil.”

He took her hand and pressed it, his eyes full of the elation which she too seemed to share. He retired soon after his arrival at Netherfield and tore her note open upon entering his room. It read:

My dearest love,

I cannot not say your words did not bring a blush to my cheeks though never in outrage nor in disgust. Honest discourse cannot be wrong in my eyes, yet my fingers do tremble as I work up the courage to respond with similar forthrightness. I never understood the depth and intensity of the love between a man and woman. In spite of my surprise at such an abundance of bewildering, new discoveries, I find those feelings a cause to rejoice.

You should not be surprised to find I care very little for the opinions of any other within the privacy of my room. I intend to welcome you into my bed with a glad heart, though I cannot pretend to possess no shy thoughts. However, with such an attachment to you, which surpasses all others, I believe that in becoming flesh of your flesh, I will have no cause to repine.

Yours,

E

*****
Elizabeth found herself at the altar in a state of miraculous calm. She had heard of, even observed, brides attacked with fits of nerves yet she had been cool and at peace throughout the morning and entered the parish church of her girlhood with no misgivings. She looked to where Darcy stood, solemn and elegant, felt her father hand her over and clearly said “I will” when her turn came upon her.

She was amazed to discover Darcy more emotional than herself, though she doubted any with the exception of his closest friends would notice. His hand was slightly unsteady, and his eyes contained the most becoming expression of ecstatic happiness as he repeated his vows to her. Her own eyes filled with sudden, happy tears though her voice remained steady.

Darcy slid his ring onto her fourth finger, and she shivered a little at his deep voice. “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.”

There were other words, other blessings, yet all she could think was how nothing would be the same after this day. If she had not loved him and trusted him as she did, she thought she might have become beset by terror herself. She was now dependent upon him for every comfort and happiness. At the end of the rites, when their hands were again joined, he squeezed her fingers. She looked up, smiling in response to his faint smile of joy.

The wedding party removed itself to Longbourn, where Mrs Bennet had prepared a very fine wedding breakfast. Georgiana embraced Elizabeth almost immediately, expressing her happiness of soon uniting with her new sister at Pemberley. Elizabeth spoke to her friends and family though she did not often stray far from Mr Bennet and Jane, who both seemed to wish for more time with her.

Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley eventually came to praise Mrs Bennet for the breakfast. Though Elizabeth could not claim to like them any better than last year, she had observed their intentions to welcome Jane with pleasure and they were at least civil to her. Mrs Bennet soon began to praise Miss Bingley for her efforts at Netherfield. “The rooms are charming, Miss Bingley, and you have done much with them. I think with a few additional improvements, my Jane can be very happy there.”

To Elizabeth’s surprise, Miss Bingley agreed, lamenting over some of the less desirable aspects of the house. “I had wished for Charles to choose an estate similar to Pemberley, yet he would choose Netherfield.”

Mrs Hurst added, “However, we met our dear Jane here and we must be content with that.”

“I must hear about Pemberley,” Mrs Bennet declared. “Lizzy says the estate is delightful but I am certain you must know it more intimately.”

Elizabeth bit her lip, amused by the thought of Miss Bingley and her mother finding a topic of common enthusiasm as Mrs Bennet listened with delight at the descriptions of fine elegance. The camaraderie was soon broken when Mrs Bennet said, “I should think Lizzy could make Pemberley very, very grand.”

Elizabeth would have been content were her mother to quit the topic, but to her dismay, Mrs Bennet continued with a list of suggested improvements, all intended to boast of Darcy’s wealth. Her cheeks flushed, as did Jane’s, though Darcy bore it all in composed silence.

Miss Bingley, likely lamenting over another lady becoming mistress of the estate she had wished to call her own, looked at Mrs Hurst with an indignant eyebrow and a taut smile, at last remarking, “Miss Eliza – I beg your pardon, Mrs Darcy, would do well to defer to Mr Darcy’s tastes. I doubt she could ever surpass his refinement.”

Both Elizabeth and Darcy frowned slightly at the indirect allusion but Mrs Bennet settled the matter with her normal enthusiasm. “You are likely very right, Miss Bingley. He does have excellent tastes! He chose my Lizzy, did he not?”

“Indeed,” Miss Bingley choked out. Elizabeth glanced at Darcy and catching a glimpse of his amused expression, bit back a laugh.

Mrs Hurst turned to Elizabeth with a cool smile. “We look forward to visiting you at Pemberley, Mrs Darcy.”

Though Elizabeth was very pleased for her sister, she could not help but think there was a price to be paid for all happiness. She was now irrevocably connected with two ladies who thought as little of her as she did of them.

After the guests departed, Mrs Gardiner went upstairs to assist Elizabeth with changing into her travelling clothes. “You are beautiful, Lizzy, as happy as a bride should be,” Mrs. Gardiner said with an approving glance.

“I do believe I am the happiest creature in the world,” she declared as she peered at her reflection in the mirror. “I did not have the opportunity to thank you and my uncle for your assistance with my wedding gift for Mr Darcy. I will not forget to pay the bill.”

“No one doubts that Mrs Darcy will pay,” her aunt returned with an amused smile. “I am very pleased with how it turned out and I think Mr Darcy will like it as well.”

Elizabeth turned to Mrs Gardiner, and her aunt grasped her hands. “I know you were embarrassed by my words to you and those of your mother but we had the best intentions – married love is rather different from maidenly reserve.”

Elizabeth blushed at the sudden reminder of Darcy’s letter, and her aunt squeezed her hands before releasing her, adding, “I shall not become an impertinent aunt or say anything more unless you ask me, which you may, if ever you need me.”

Elizabeth smoothed her skirts and then suddenly embraced Mrs Gardiner. “Thank you, Aunt.”

*****
Elizabeth faced her family and took a deep breath, willing herself not to cry. Her father seemed rather misty-eyed, and her mother was wailing into her handkerchief. “The arrangements were lovely, Mama,” Elizabeth soothed as her mother embraced her. “Everyone said as much.”

Her mother dabbed her eyes and nodded. “Yes, yes, but this is so melancholy, Lizzy, to think of you almost as far as Lydia.”

“We will write, ma’am and visit each other.”

Her mother nodded, and her father took her hand and said quietly, “Take care, my child.”

Bingley smiled at her warmly and pressed her hand, and then she turned to Jane, who was fighting tears. “We promised no tears today, dearest,” Elizabeth whispered in her ear, “but I think we both will fail. How I will miss you!”

They clung to each other’s hand, and Kitty said, “I think Mr Darcy is wildly in love with you, Lizzy, as wild as he ever could be.”

“Kitty!” Jane exclaimed with a gasp.

“It is true”, Kitty insisted with a trace of petulance. “He would be too boring a husband for me.”

Elizabeth tried not to laugh as she embraced Mary who gave her most grave congratulations and reminders on wifely endurance.

The carriage came into the drive, and Elizabeth pursed her lips as she settled into the carriage and waved goodbye to her family until they were out of sight. Elizabeth wiped a tear from her cheek and turned away turned from the window only to discover Darcy’s intent gaze upon her.

Darcy moved to sit next to her. Eventually, he asked, “You are not unhappy?”

She shook her head quickly and tried to rouse herself a little. “I am happy; you must have seen that at the church.”

She paused for a moment as she recalled her last night at home, once again reassuring her father of her intention to write, and then there had been the scene with Jane as they had stood in their room, with almost every belonging packed away and gone. “I have never been away from my family with no intention to return unless as a visitor. It does seem rather strange,” she admitted at last.

He seemed content with her explanation, and Elizabeth was glad, as she could not yet bring herself to speak of the rest. Her present location, completely alone with a new husband in a luxurious carriage, brought forward a rush of vague, unsettled thoughts. The carriage and nerves eventually lulled her to sleep, and she did not stir until Darcy kissed her cheek. “Elizabeth,” he murmured before pressing his lips to hers. “We have arrived in Town.”

She smiled at him and stretched before setting her appearance to rights. Then she grasped his hand tightly and looked out the window, as amazed as she had been during her first visit to Brook Street. She watched the crowded and poor parts of London give way to streets progressively more grand and elegant, feeling very unlike herself as the carriage came to a stop. On her rare visits to Mayfair, her purpose had been to gawk at the rich splendour of the houses, to shop and to stare at the wealthy, fashionable ladies walking about the streets in their immaculate dress, never imagining herself as a resident.

Darcy handed her out of the carriage himself, and they passed by the liveried servants, ushered into the marble entrance with quiet efficiency. More servants came forward to remove their travel attire and Elizabeth shook out her skirts in silence, before inhaling quickly and greeting Mrs Tate warmly.

Mrs Tate expressed the wishes of the staff to please their new mistress, and once all introductions had been made, she said, “Mrs Gardiner sent a parcel over a few days ago. I had it delivered to your room.”

Elizabeth suppressed a smile at Darcy’s visible surprise and thanked the housekeeper. “The arrangements for supper,” Elizabeth began hesitantly, knowing such duties were hers yet having little idea of what the staff normally served.

“It should be served in an hour, Mrs Darcy,” Darcy interjected as the trio looked slightly uncomfortably at each other.

Elizabeth felt her cheeks flush. “Very good, I should like to change,” she said briskly. She took a step toward the grand spiral staircase and then halted. “If you will show me the way, sir. I do not quite remember.”

Darcy cleared his throat. “Yes, of course, my dear.”

Go to Part 6

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