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The Tragedy of a Woman

Volume Four.

Chapter XVII.

"Darce?"

The man blinked and turned slightly in the direction of the voice. "I'm sorry Bingley."

"No need for you to apologise. She preferred the town anyway."

"Its just the thought of her occupying the family crypt......." Darcy trailed off. "I do not deserve such a friend as you, Charles."

"Bingley, you better tell him to stop that or I might do something I'll regret," Colonel Fitzwilliam remarked as he walked over to them. "All the rest are gone," he added. "Are you two coming?"

"I am. I need to write a letter to Jane."

"Another one?" The Colonel questioned in exasperation. "No, there's no need to explain," he replied when Bingley began to, "I understand perfectly. This is why I chose bachelorhood." He turned to his cousin. "And you, Darce?"

"I'll be along in a while."

Colonel Fitzwilliam nodded and walked away with his cousin's best friend towards the carriage which was stationed in front of the church. "I do not know why he is hesitating," he commented. "It is not as if any one of us expects him to mourn. We all knew he was going to divorce her and I certainly knew he had someone else in mind."

"You know Darcy," Bingley replied. "He is far too noble for his own good." He paused. "When is he going to see Lizzy?" He asked rhetorically.

"You know about that?" Fitzwilliam confirmed in surprise.

"He told me in his letter," Bingley replied, "but I never realised that his admiration had been of long standing."

Darcy meanwhile had not heard any of this, lost in thought as he was. Instead he just stared at the grave, his mind far away. It was strange, he mused, how things worked out. At the age of eight and twenty he was already widowed and contemplating his next marriage.

Marriage! Caroline was only just in her grave! Yet, somehow, his mind was already decided on his next course of action. He would sort out the estate business that needed to be done, but which he had neglected lately, and then he would travel to Hertfordshire where he would for the second time go down on bended knee to the woman he loved. Elizabeth!


Fitzwilliam! Elizabeth woke up with he name on her lips and his image in her dreams. When she opened her eyes, for a brief moment she could sworn she had seen him standing before her. She walked to the window and parted the curtains to view the new dawn. As she did so she asked her seriously whether or not she would be able to forget Fitzwilliam Darcy, as she had vowed to try and do.

The answer she received was a decidedly negative one. This was not unexpected, indeed Elizabeth found that it was an answer which she had resigned herself to long ago. She would not, could not forget him. Nor did she see herself finding someone else.

As yet however, she could not resign herself to that realistic fate. If he did divorce, she knew that would willingly bare all the social stigma of it and marry him, and so until that was found impossible, she would not give up the hope that somehow, someday they would come to an understanding.

Despite a feeling of sorrow Elizabeth could help smiling at the decision she had just realised. If someone had told her a year ago that she would soon meet the man that she would be willing to walk through fire for, she would have laughed at the absurdity of it. She had always sworn to marry for the deepest love, having half an idea that it might never happen, yet now it had become reality for her.

She chuckled softly at that thought and turned to gaze at the garden in a vain effort to try and focus her mind on something else. Anything else. She begged her mind to try, but all it could come up with was the Lydia situation. She was almost certain now that he had been personally involved in the circumstances that led up to the eventual marriage.

Her father had been right when he said that Wickham was a fool if he took Lydia without money, and Lizzy herself knew that he was right. It was this assumption which convinced her that it was not her uncle who had paid Wickham off.

Only someone who knew him well would have been able to persuade him to agree to so little settled on Lydia and Elizabeth was without a doubt certain as to who that person was. It would explain why his friend had not had contact with him for several weeks. Until a few days ago in fact.

She remembered well that when she had visited Netherfield and she had her sister had found Bingley in the Library reading a letter with the Darcy crest upon it. This in itself was not unusual but Bingley's expression had been. Elizabeth could still picture it perfectly. She had rarely seen Bingley being anything but cheerful and the expression she had seen on him that afternoon was the one she had never seen before. It looked thoughtful, but also surprised and even had touches of sorrow.

Added to that he had refused to talk about the letter, mentioning only that it was from Darcy. He then announced to Jane the next morning that he had to travel to town on an urgent matter of business. What that business was Elizabeth had no idea of and neither did Jane it seemed. For some reason she had begun to think that it concerned Darcy because Bingley was only silent in matters of friendship.

Added to this she had been experiencing nightmares lately, all of which concerned him in grief, convincing her that something was up. She wished she knew what. You would know if you had not broken up with him, a voice inside her head insisted on replying with. Yet she had been so certain when she had done it.

To say yes to his proposal would have trapped her and Elizabeth knew, or rather hoped, Darcy now understood her refusal. Thinking upon it and wondering about it as she had done so ever since it had occurred, she had hoped that he had.

She remembered the moments of closeness at Lambton when he had held her in his arms as she had told him of Lydia and she also remembered his kindness at Pemberley, all of which seemed to say that he did understand and that he did forgive her for what now seemed to her as undeniably harsh manner with which she had treated him when she met him at Hunsford and at Netherfield. She was grateful for it if he did. She had to hope that he did, to keep her emotions in perspective.

A quiet knock at the door broke her thoughts. Elizabeth turned away from the window and called out for the maid to come in. It was time to face another day.

After she had changed she arrived downstairs to find only her father at the breakfast table, being an early riser like herself. He had a letter in his hand ad every now and again would chuckle at the contents.

"Ah, Lizzy," he said upon her entrance. "I have here in my hands Mr Collins' judgement on the recent events. I swear the man has less sense now than when we saw him last."

"What does he have to say?" Elizabeth asked him as she had been given leave to do so by the last comment.

"Oh, he spends about five sides on the evils of youth, most of which contain repetition about every five lines. The rest of his letter speaks of Lady Catherine's judgement -something that he thinks would matter to us- which is his, almost word for word."

"She probably dictated it to him," Elizabeth commented, causing a laugh from her father. "Does he mention anything else?"

"Eventually yes," Mr Bennet paused to find the instance. Suddenly his expression changed to shock. "I had no idea," he remarked, as if to himself. "Poor Charles."

"Poor Charles?" Elizabeth repeated, looking concerned. "Papa, what's wrong?"

"According to this, Caroline Darcy is dead."

Elizabeth was suddenly grateful that she had nothing in her hands. "When did this happen?"

"It seems to be awhile ago," Mr Bennet concluded after a pause. "For he mentions it only in passing in order to explain his patroness' intentions."

"Intentions to what?" Elizabeth asked, trying to sound only casually interested.

"Her nephew's new wife. Apparently Lady Catherine intends for Mr Darcy to marry her daughter, a match that was planned while they were in their cradles."

Elizabeth wondered if her face was concealing her shock and overwhelming grief. She had a feeling the hope was in vain. Everything was lost.


While the news of Mrs Darcy's death and possible new woman to fill that role passed round the home counties of the family, Darcy remained in the close company of his dearest friends, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr Bingley, who deliberately delayed his return journey in order to make sure his friend was okay.

To all outward appearances Darcy was coping very well in mourning. At least that was what the society -to use a modern term- grapevine had concluded. In reality the case was very different, although if one were to ask the gentleman himself, one would find a very different answer.

Darcy was convinced that he was coping very well with changes to his will and such forth, but his friends knew that it would only be a matter of time until he eventually broke down his defences. True, he was not mourning Caroline, for he had never really cared about her, but his mourning was still connected to her.

His friends knew that Darcy blamed himself for her death even though he could not have foreseen it, all they were waiting for was for him to admit it aloud. Yet Darcy was remarkably stubborn and his cousin was seriously beginning to consider dragging him to the nearest wine cellar and making him soundly drunk.

It was almost a month to the day after Caroline's funeral when Darcy finally relented to his friends and asked to receive absolution. His friends obligingly shut up the house and availed themselves on the Earl of Matlock's extensive wine cellar, who had assured them of his allegiance until his nephew was back to his usual self.

At the end of the same week Charles Bingley departed from London to Netherfield, having delayed his departure long enough. Jane was nearing her confinement and he could not longer stay away without becoming a wreck to his friends, which would leave Colonel Fitzwilliam as the only sane and sober gentleman among them, a task which the latter joking commented as one he would not relish.

Before he left Bingley made his friend agree to visiting him as soon as he sent word, an offer which Darcy barely acknowledged, hesitant as he was to facing Elizabeth at this time. Of course going to Netherfield did not necessarily mean that he would see her, nor did Darcy particularly want to make preference to avoid her, rather it was that he felt himself unequal to seeing her at this time.

He knew that one glance, one glimmer, one sign, no matter how small, of how much she - hopefully - still loved him, would be all that he would need to voice his desire to marry her once more. True he was relying on this conceit as an excuse, but it mattered not. If he married her now, the entire ton would be up in arms. Slander, gossip and disapproval would be flung at them from every quarter, which was the last thing Darcy would have her bare.

No, a proper amount of mourning must be observed, no matter how much of a wreck he became because of it. He wished that he could write to her, to tell her not to be concerned at the reports she must have no doubt heard by now. To tell her that he loved her still and that as soon as he could, he would come for her.

But no, that would be too risky. Knowing as he felt he did, he could imagine her reacting with anger to his arrogance over the assumption and might reject him anyway, or worst still her feelings might have really changed and then the letter would serve only as a guilty reminder.

Not to mention that there was also a semblance of safety in not knowing, even though the agony of his concern about her increased. What must she be feeling, he wondered, wishing he knew. He longed for her touch, her smile, her laugh, even her just presence, almost every hour of the day.

He could no longer fix on the spot, or the hour, or look which had laid the foundation stone of his devotion, his love for her. It was all too long ago. He finally understood now what it must be like in marriages formed on love and respect, not the compromises and mercenary desires which had fulfilled his last.

Abruptly he stood up and shook himself, causing his cousin a great surprise. (Colonel Fitzwilliam made no query on it, he knew how his cousin's mind worked, and to interrupt him now would only halt the healing process). He needed to stop getting ahead of himself, to stop analysing, as was his tendency, and instead concentrate on getting himself through this. If he subjected his rationale to scrutiny too much, he might begin to doubt all of his judgement. He sat back down, and changed the thoughts in his mind.

He realised the importance of his friends, especially Bingley's for supporting him over his own sister. Darcy had been so concerned when the cracks of his marriage began to show that Charles would support Caroline rather than him and he was eternally grateful for it. He was also thankful for him choosing Netherfield as his first country residence out of all the others that were on offer. Who knows what might have happened if he had decided on Derbyshire instead, as had been his original plan. Darcy hoped one day he would be able to make it up to him.

As for the Colonel, Darcy was also grateful for his wordless support after the confession he dealt him at Hunsford. He had looked for an outburst when none had come. No, "I told you so's", just support. He was thankful for his family and friends. Very thankful indeed.


Chapter XVIII.

London, 18_ _

Elizabeth had never been to a society ball before. And this was one that she was unlikely to forget, for it was the first time she met him.

They had just got married. A week ago in town. A typical society wedding, ton included. No honeymoon, that was unusual. Then, considering the state of Europe at that time, it was to be expected. It seemed almost as if the ball had waited for their appearance. Certainly the music had stopped as they entered.

"Ah, I see marriage hasn't changed her," the host remarked almost to herself.

"Who do you mean?" Mrs Gardiner asked. She and the host, Lady Harwood, had known each other since childhood.

"Madeline dear, you are looking at the new mistress of Pemberley," Lady Harwood replied. The, seeing Elizabeth was puzzled, she added, "Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy."

Elizabeth found herself staring at Mrs Darcy as the couple walked over to greet the host. Lady Harwood introduced all of them.

"Charmed," Mrs Darcy replied, obviously lying. She quickly drew her husband away.

Elizabeth did not meet the woman again that night. She was never to meet her again in fact, until Meryton. Instead she was to meet the man.

He had not been exactly enjoying the ball, but then he had not wanted to come. Already he was regretting his marriage to Caroline. He sighed and stepped out on to the balcony. Clasping the railing in frustration he voiced his torment aloud.

"How much more must I endure! Why oh why did I not listen to Charles! I never should have married her!"

Suddenly he heard a rustle of skirts. He turned round, his mask returning to his face. "Forgive me, I..........." he began rather stiffly, then became immobile. Facing him was a young woman. A very beautiful young woman. She had dark brown hair and brown eyes. And oh, what eyes they were!

"Did not realise anyone was here?" She finished his sentence for him, bringing him out of the trance her beauty had trapped him in.

"Yes," Darcy replied. "I'm sorry, I do not believe............." He trailed off, as unbidden, his mind started to entertain thoughts about her that a married man should not have.

"That we have been introduced? But indeed we have, sir. I was standing with Lady Harwood when you arrived," she replied with a lively smile. The fantasies were beginning to haunt him again. "Elizabeth Bennet."

"Fitzwilliam Darcy," he replied, bringing her proffered hand to his lips, wanting to do so much more. This was crazy! He was married! He should not be thinking stuff like this. And yet he was.

"Forgive me, Mr Darcy. Usually I do not interfere with peoples private lives, but it looks like you need to talk to someone," Elizabeth commented, her mind screaming at her. What are you doing? You never usually flirt! And he's married!

"Thank you, but I assure you.........." he trailed off again. Oh what the hell, he thought to himself. Abandon caution to the winds.

And that's exactly what they did.

London, 1812.

Darcy was sitting alone in his library, The Morning Post in his hand, an untouched Earl Grey by his side. That is until the doors were thrown open and his whole room was invaded by the presence of Lady Catherine de Bough.

"Aunt Catherine," Darcy barely managed to get out as he sat up with a jump, almost sending the Earl to the floor.

"Really nephew," his Aunt admonished. "That's 17th century china."

"Sorry Aunt." Darcy stood up and greeted her properly. "Er, what brings you to London?" He tried to ask casually.

"You, nephew," his Aunt replied, much to his puzzlement. She sat down and motioned to the footman who had rushed in behind her. "Tea," she commanded.

The footman looked at his master and Darcy signalled him to depart. Mental note, get faster footmen for the front door.

"I want to know why you are still here."

"Here?" Darcy questioned.

"Yes, you should have informed me of your plans."

"Aunt," Darcy began, "I do not see why............"

"Enough," Lady Catherine cut him off. "I am most displeased with you."

"Displeased?" Darcy had been reduced to uttering only one word.

"Yes. I expected you would be anxious to marry her, but I also expected you to inform me about your plans."

"Who?" Darcy asked, but Lady Catherine continued as if he had never spoken.

"Why, the whole of London knew before I did. My brother even knew before I did. When were you going to tell me?"

"Tell?"

"Nephew, will you please stop that. You know perfectly well what I am talking about."

Darcy just stared at her blankly.

"I must say that I was most displeased with you at first." What, more so than you are now? "I know you did not love Caroline but I still expected you to mourn her properly. A Darcy must behave circumspectly, just as society expects him to."

"But of course," Darcy managed to muster. "And I intend to."

"Then, why have I heard reports that you intend to marry again soon?"

She knows! How the hell did she find out? And from whom? Darcy however, said none of this. "I confess I do not know, Aunt. I have only just returned to this house."

"Well, as long as you behave properly and propose to the girl, I will not mind. I offer you my congratulations." What!?! "I am sure Anne will have no doubts about marrying you."

"Anne? Aunt, I'm not marrying Anne."

"WHAT!?!"

Oops, that's put the cat amongst the pigeons. Darcy wished he had not sounded so sincere when he had said that answer.

As for Lady Catherine, she was now livid. "FITZWILLIAM," She bellowed. "May I remind you that that is what I have always intended?"

No, you may not. Darcy sighed. He had hoped to put this argument off, to marry before his Aunt knew. So much for that.

"You and Anne were always to marry. It was planned between your mother and myself since your cradles. Now, I accepted Caroline as one little rebellion, but I will not accept another."

"Aunt, when I marry again I will choose for myself."

"Nonsense! You will dare to defy your parent's memory?"

"My mother never told me I was to marry Anne. She only told me to find as much love as she had found when she married my father."

"Love! Utter nonsense! What has love to do in marriages these days?"

"I never loved Caroline, Aunt. That should explain why."

"Nephew!" Lady Catherine began to pace before him. "Will you please be rational! You are marrying Anne, that is the end of it!"

"No it is not, Aunt." Darcy stood up. It was time to stop humouring her. "Anne and I have always felt nothing more for each other than cousinly affection. I do not wish to marry her, I never will. My heart belongs to another. And that person is the woman I wish to marry. And nothing from you or anyone else could say, will prevent me from doing so."

"How dare you! You chose to defy your uncle? You choose to defy me?"

"My uncle respects my wishes in this case. I had his blessing long ago."

"Insolent, headstrong boy! You refuse to obey me?"

"For the last time, Aunt, my marriage plans are my decision alone. No one else's."

"This is your decision then? Very well, I shall know how to act. From this moment, Nephew, you will never see me again."

Darcy tried to hide the joy that this announcement provoked.

"Your name will never be mentioned my me. And the Shades of........."

"Please, Aunt, enough of the Shades." Darcy stepped forward. "I think you have made yourself clear. You know where the door is."

Lady Catherine certainly did. The shutting of it could be heard all through the street.

Darcy breathed a sigh of relief and sat back down. The footman that had been sent to bring more tea and who had wisely stayed outside the door until now, returned with brandy, appreciating his master's need. Darcy accepted the drink and took care to see that the man left before downing it in one. He filled the glass again and leant against the sofa. He was thankful that his Aunt had not learnt who he was to marry. At least who he hoped to marry.

Colonel Fitzwilliam then came in and looked at his cousin. "I gather Aunt Catherine decided to pay a visit."

"Yes. To congratulate me on my forthcoming marriage to Anne."

"What?"

"Calm down, Richard, I'm not, remember? That's just what Lady Catherine and the rest of society have surmised."

Fitzwilliam sat down, taking a brandy as well. "When did this happen?"

"Apparently, it was spreading around while we were 'locked' in Uncle Matlock's cellar," Darcy replied, causing his cousin to chuckle. "You really must tell her soon, Rich. You and Anne cannot wait forever."

"I know," the Colonel replied with a sigh. "It's just difficult."

"I had gathered that."

"We decided to wait until I could resign my commission more easily. Anyway, we're meant to be sorting out your love life, not mine." The Colonel paused to sip the brandy. "What are your plans?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?" His cousin queried.

"I have no excuse to go down there right now. Also, how am I to explain myself? I am still meant to be in mourning."

"I think telling her that you are in love with her would be a good start." The Colonel knew nothing of his cousin's affair with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, he just knew his feelings.

"I'm not worried about explaining myself to Elizabeth, I'm worried how her family will react. No cousin, I cannot go yet. I have to wait until the proper mourning time has been observed. Or until Charles sends for me."

"But that is not until December. That's still a month away and more. What are you to do in that time?"

"Sort out my estate. I have neglected it for far too long."

"And what about Miss Bennet? What is she to do while you wait here in London for society to give you leave?"

Darcy took another brandy. "I do not even know if she cares for me, Richard. I wish that I did. I cannot even bring myself to consider any of that yet. You know the only thing that is stopping me from running to her and confessing all is what society will think of her."

"And what will they think of her?"

"Come on, Richard. You know society. There will be rumours within a week of the marriage. I have to wait. I do not want to wish that on her. No, I will wait until Charles sends me word. Then I will tell her all." And then pray that she still feels the same.


London, 18__.

"Miss Bennet!" Darcy exclaimed in joy. "I did not expect to find you here."

"Nor I you, Mr Darcy," Elizabeth returned as he took her hand in greeting again. "I did not think others walked the park at this hour."

"I usually prefer to do so at this time of the day. It is a habit that is hard to break." He paused. "May I join you?"

"I would much prefer to join you in your walk, sir," Elizabeth returned with a lively smile. Darcy smiled back and brought the hand which he was still holding over his arm.

They walked in silence for a while, both remembering the events of the night before. "I wanted to apologise," Darcy began.

"For the dance?" Elizabeth queried, knowing full well that dance was an understatement. It was more than just a dance. Last night he had told her more about himself than he had ever told anyone. Then they had waltzed alone on the balcony in time to the faint strands of the orchestra music that could be heard there. Then........

"No, not for the dance. For what happened after that dance," Darcy replied, clearly embarrassed.

"Mr Darcy," Elizabeth began slowly trying to control her blush. "Last night I believe we made a promise to be perfectly honest with each other." She took a deep breath, hoping that the next thing she was about to say would not disturb him. "I'm not."

Darcy blinked and turned to look at her. "You're not what?"

"I'm not sorry about last night. The kiss."

"You're not?" Darcy was overjoyed. He had never meant the kiss to happen but happen it did. He just could not stop himself. From the moment he had seen her he had wanted to kiss her. He worried all night that she would take offence.

Elizabeth herself knew that she was taking a big risk by admitting this to him. But she had never felt like this before for anyone.


Chapter XIX.

London, 18__

"In that case I retract my apology," Darcy replied, placing his hand over hers. They looked at each other for a brief moment before they began to contemplate the consequences of their revelation. In unison they spoke the automatic response. "We should not be doing this."

Their reaction broke the tension and both chuckled. They stopped their walk and Elizabeth separated from him to lean against a nearby tree. "So," she tentatively began. "What do we do now?"

"Whatever you want. You have the more to loose by this."

Elizabeth blushed at the implication and slowly considered the facts. She barely knew him, that was the first thing to remember. And yet she could not deny the feelings which that kiss had awoke. It had felt completely right, despite the risk the action took. She trusted him, she realised, and that was the material point, the point to decide upon. Nothing else mattered. She looked up at him. "I trust you."

Darcy seemed to understand her meaning. He came close in front of her, meeting her graze. It spoke her acceptance. He leaned forward and kissed her, the position of the tree concealing them from public view.

After that they walked on, without knowing the direction. Realities had to be discussed. Once they had taken this step there would be no going back. The natural alternative was of course to not go forward, but that was also impossible. Both knew that if they pretended this had never happened, they would always wonder what would have come if they had.

The risks were great, the consequences perhaps inevitable, yet at this point none of them seemed important when compared to what they felt for each other. True they had only just met but evening ago, however it felt like fate, a cruel sort of fate but a fate nonetheless. It would be wrong to deny the opportunity which it had given them. So they abandoned caution and took it.

The first time was at his house in the late morning of that very day. After that they began to meet whenever they could. More often than not they would just talk, unconsciously learning all they could about each other. It made the inevitable separation harder to bare. So it just seemed right when he suggested Kympton.

"A Vicarage?" Elizabeth queried, looking at him curiously. Darcy merely smiled back, laying another kiss upon her palm.

"Yes. The house remains empty as I have yet to find a suitable tenant....... Truth be known I .........." he trailed off to look at her face. "May I be candid with you, Elizabeth?"

"Of course."

"I don't want this to end. I have never felt happier these past few days then when I'm with you. The times we spend together have affected me more deeply than you could ever know. If you are willing I want you to live at Kympton for a while. If you cannot......" he trailed off again, a mask forming over his face. "I understand."

"It is not that I have no desire to go," Elizabeth replied quickly. She had seen that mask before and had no wish to see it again. "I am concerned about how I will be able to do so without causing suspicion."

Darcy visibly relaxed. He then leant forward to kiss her before exchanging ideas.


London, 1812.

Darcy woke up with a start. It took several breaths before he realised that what he had just dreamt of had happened well over a year ago.

He sat up with a deep sigh and got out of bed. Putting on his robe, he walk towards the window. He dew back the curtains to survey the sky. It was a few hours to go before dawn but he did not care. There was no way he could sleep now.


Longbourn, 1812.

Elizabeth woke up with a start. It took several breaths before she realised that what she had been dreaming had occurred well over a year ago.

She sat up and got out of bed with a sigh. Putting on her robe, she walked towards the window. She drew back a curtain to survey the sky. It was a few hours to go before dawn but she did not care. There was no way she could sleep now.

Her mind went back to the dream or rather memory she had just had a few minutes ago. It had been one of those perfect days, a day she had never wanted to end. They had been talking about going away together and forgetting the world. It had been pure fantasy of course.

Until he had brought up Kympton. She had never realised before that he had practically admitted how much he care for her then. I have never felt happier these past few days than when I am with you, he had said.

The times we have spent together have affected me more deeply than you could ever know. How she wished that she had been thinking clearly enough to realise then! Not that it probably would have changed anything, she knew that too well. However it would have prepared her for the revelations at Hunsford. Things he might never had revealed if she had not ended it with him. Perhaps it was easier this way. Then again, perhaps not.


Darcy thought back to the dream or rather memory he had just thought about. It had been one of those perfect days, a day he had never wanted to end. He realised now how many times he had come close to letting her know how much he loved her. Would it, he asked himself, been better if he had told her then? Probably not. The same events would have still occurred. They were uncontrollable, he realised.

He turned away from the window to survey his room. Briefly he had an image of Elizabeth in his bed. He wondered how she was. How she was coping, if at all. I miss you, Lizzy. Please, please understand I never wanted to you to wait. I would marry you in an instance if I could. If you still care, that is. I know I have done nothing to deserve your love, but I wish to have it always. I am coming Lizzy. I will be there as soon as Charles sends word.


Elizabeth sighed and turned to survey her room. For a brief moment she had an image of Fitzwilliam sleeping in her bed. She wondered how he was. What he was doing, wherever he was. Please, please come back to me, Fitzwilliam. I would marry you tomorrow if you would only ask. I know there's a chance that you no longer care for me, still let me assure you now that mine are still the same.

Suddenly Elizabeth felt an urge to look back out of the window. She could almost feel his voice his touch, as if he was replying to her plea. Somehow she felt reassured, comforted by the feeling. As though he was speaking to her, replying with his own feelings of love in return. Smiling, she turned to watch the coming dawn. Come, Fitzwilliam. I will be waiting for you.


The dawn came and with it the normal routine. Darcy bathed, dressed and appeared in the breakfast room just before the other occupants of his house came in. He helped himself to some toast as his cousin offered him a mumbled "good morning." Colonel Fitzwilliam was not a morning person, despite the trials of his Army rank. Darcy had learnt to not speak to him until he had had a strong cup of coffee.

They returned to the table just as Georgiana came in, humming a tune. Richard grimaced at the both of them. The Darcys were always morning people. He began to drink his coffee.

"You're in a good mood this morning, Georgiana," her brother commented, smiling.

His sister looked at him startled. "Well, this is a first."

"A first?" The Colonel queried, his coffee drunk and his humour restored. "I thought Darce was always like this."

"No, Richard, look. He's smiling."

"Whoa!"

Darcy shook his head at them. "You two, really! You're as bad as Anne. She never let's me live down that breakfast five years ago, when Aunt Catherine slept in."

The three chuckled at the memory of that chaotic morning. "Seriously," Richard continued, "why are you so happy?"

"I woke up just before dawn this morning," Darcy began to reply as his cousin dropped his mouth in shock of the hour. "And I realised that it was time to stop worrying about the future. I must cope until Charles sends word. So until then, you will see me in a good mood. However when that letter arrives I will be a quivering wreck."

His cousin chuckled. "In that case I shall have Fraser make sure a bottle of brandy is ready for you at that time. If you do not need it, I'm sure we will."

Darcy smiled at that, as his good mood did not extend to laughing just yet. Indeed he could not explain his good mood. All he could explain, at least to himself, was that after thinking that message to Lizzy in his head, he had almost felt her voice replying to the thought and answering with her own feelings. It left him quite comforted and with a new found will to face the day. It was so strange, but it felt somehow normal.

Richard looked up to find his cousin's mind far away. He chuckled again and turned to his other. "Now this is usually what I find your brother like in the mornings."

Quicker than Darcy expected, the weeks passed and December soon came upon them. The society gossips quietened down, and apart from an occasional letter in the hand of Lady Catherine to her nephew, the Darcys never heard the rumours of his marriage again.

One week in the middle of that month the letter that Darcy had been waiting for, came. It was in Charles' usual style, even the birth of his first child seemed to merit no occasion for making the handwriting any neater. It ran as follows:

Darce,

Words cannot express my [blot]iness! It has only been [blot] days and yet there are still times [blot] I have to remind myself that I am a father!...............

Darcy chuckled at this point. He could well imagine Bingley's happiness, it had been infuriating when he was with them in London.

Jane is very well and still as lovely as ever! She is an angel, Darce, an absolute [blot]................

Darcy began to skim read the letter now, before Bingley's praises of Jane threatened to overwhelm him. Briefly he wondered when and if his friend was going to get to the point. He was relieved when, a page later, he finally did.

I know by now, Darce, you will have begun to despair of my ever becoming precise, so I shall do so now without further delay. Robert Edward Bingley was born [blot] days ago! Pronounced to be in excellent health. A Mrs [blot] was there to help, excellent, [blot] highly recommended! Meryton I think knew before [blot] had announced the news, certainly..........

Darcy again adopted a skim reading method, passing the first sheet to his cousin as he did so. Georgiana leant over Richard's shoulder and the two began to it together.

It is [blot]fore, and with [blot] pleasure that I invite [blot] Darce to Netherfield. You are [blot]come as soon as this letter [blot]ches you. No doubt you will most anxious to come. I took the liberty of consulting Jane of the matter you confessed to me and she heartily approves..............

Darcy had difficulty at this point in keeping his composure. No doubt if Mrs Bingley really knew the entire affair she would think differently.

Indeed she has often remarked how silent her sister has been lately. Apparently she has been taking a lot more walks, often to visit us here and having very little to [blot].

This last brought Darcy to his senses. He rang the bell, jumped up, chucked the last of the letter to his sister and almost ran out of the room. It was time to go to Netherfield.


Chapter XX.

A few days after the birth of Robert Bingley, Jane and Mr Bingley invited Elizabeth over to Netherfield. She was to be the first to see him, an event which Mrs Bennet envied greatly.

"He's beautiful, Jane," Elizabeth remarked as she cradled Robert in her arms.

"So, how does it feel, Aunt Elizabeth?" Jane asked her as she sat beside her on the sofa.

"Stranger than I had expected it to," She replied. "However I think it awfully inconsiderate of you not to have a girl first. It seems I must wait awhile longer to teach your children to play the piano very ill."

"Lizzy, you play better than me!" Jane admonished good naturedly. "Besides, you might do that to your own."

"And when am I likely to have them, Jane?"

"Lizzy, what is it that has been bothering you lately? Every time you come over here you seem rather wistful."

"I am," Elizabeth confessed. "You seem so happy, Jane and I wish I could achieve the same."

"But you can and will."

"Will I? This is the only house that was once empty in a neighbourhood that consists of no young, single, good men. No, Jane, I am quite determined to end an old maid."

Jane looked carefully at her sister and for the first time spotted the emotion she had previously missed. "You speak as if you are in love but it cannot be requited."

Elizabeth looked at her sister. Her barriers were slipping she realised, if Jane had noticed that much. She sighed inaudibly. It was horrible lying to her sister and it was coming to a point where it would be impossible. "Yes, I am in love with someone. He has told me that he feels the same, but our situations make it impossible. We cannot help it though. We were lost to it long ago."

"Oh Lizzy, why did you not tell me?"

"I did not wish to crush your happiness."

"Do I know the gentleman? And who is it?"

"You do know him, but I would prefer to keep his name to myself."

"Of course. I would never force a confidence upon you."

"Oh Jane," Elizabeth cried, putting an arm around her, "I did not mean to cause you grief. It is precisely why I did not wish to reveal anything."

"But you cannot keep this to yourself! It is eating you up inside, I can see it."

"Jane, I wish I could tell you all, and perhaps, if it is ever resolved then I will. But if I reveal his name and the full details of the situation between us, you will change your opinion of the man and I would not wish that." Seeing her sister was still persistent, Elizabeth added further, "Jane, it is complicated, long-winded and not easily solvable."

Jane would have protested further but her husband entered, preventing the conversation from continuing. Elizabeth was thankful for his intrusion, for any longer and she would have told Jane everything. She did not want to tell her sister yet, not until she was ready. Mr Darcy was Bingley's oldest friend. To have Jane know this would change her good opinion of him and Lizzy did not want that.

She stayed for hour longer, and then returned to Longbourn. When she had arrived, she skirted announcing her presence by walking around to the garden in order to think some more. She was beginning to regret her words to Jane. As her dearest sister and best friend, she had never been one who did not confide all in her. Why did she not do so now? She sighed. She knew perfectly why, because Mr Darcy was someone whom she would see often because of his friendship with Bingley. Why was life so complicated?

Because we would tire of it easily if it were not, a voice in her head replied back at her. Elizabeth smiled. Darcy had said that to her at Kympton after she had voiced the question aloud. She had returned with explaining that it had been rhetorically meant before all speech had stopped as he touched her lips with his.

I ought to concentrate on the good memories, rather than dwelling on the depressing reality, Elizabeth concluded suddenly, her mind becoming clearer. I will honour the memories of times spent with my love by valuing them for the mere fact of their existence, and try to stop wishing for more of them to occur. Count my blessings, she resolved, and be thankful.

With this resolution in mind she smiled and returned to the house, trying to look for all the world as though she was contented.


Kympton, 18__

"So," he began, several hours later as she lay in his arms. "What was it you were saying?"

"I cannot remember," she replied, turning briefly to kiss his skin. He brought his hand out from behind his head and locked it in one of hers, while the other went to bury itself in her hair. "Elizabeth," he began somewhat reluctantly.

"What is it?" She asked anxiously, detecting his inner turmoil. He hesitated, wondering if he should tell her this.

Suddenly his hand was deprived of its pilgrimage as she turned to face him. "Fitzwilliam, tell me. Tell me what it is that bothers you?"

He looked at her tenderly, letting his free hand cup her face. Slowly he confessed, "I don't want to this ever end."

She smiled back. "Then it won't," she replied simply.

He looked back at her in wonderment. "But.........."

"No," she cut him off. "No, buts. I do not want to hear once more of the realities of our situations or the consequences that this might bring. I do not care about them."

He hesitated, startled. "But," he tried to begin again with and once more she stopped him.

"No, " she repeated, before slipping out of the bed, taking a sheet with her to cover herself.

He lay back stunned. He had never seen her this angry before. "I'm sorry," he replied automatically.

"Do you know what for?"

He paled. "No," he admitted reluctantly.

"Fitzwilliam," she sighed. "I am not able to dwell on the practicalities of this. I know only too well the limits of this affair. I also know that a moment ago you asked the impossible." She turned to gaze out of the window. "Sooner or later, this will come to an end, as much as neither of want it to. I just want to focus on the present, not the future, because the future will have no time for us and if we focus on that we will end up hating each other," she said the last with a choked voice, as she tried to check her tears.

He could bare it no longer. He got up and went to her, wrapping her arms around her. "I am sorry I caused you pain, my love," he began. "You are right. Let's value we have." He buried his face in her hair, kissing every curl he could reach. She turned to face him once more, her control departing as she let him comfort her.

He tightened his embrace as the grief became audible, striving to give her all the comfort he could. He placed soft kisses in her hair, on her neck, and whispered endearments in her ears. He was overwhelmed with the desire to protect her. Memories of his sister's inconsolable grief last year raged through him and instinctively he pulled her closer.

They stood there for quite some time, as she tried to regain back her self control, failing several times. The months of not being able to confide in anyone about this had taken their toll and it would take a while for her to recover.

He sensed this and drew back a little. "I had no right to ask you to come with me. I took advantage of you."

"No," she replied instantly, stroking his face. "No, you did not take advantage of me. You did not make me do anything that I did not want to do. I would have told you long ago if I did not want this to happen." She leant forward and kissed him.

Startled he did not respond immediately. The flames of their desire however, could not stay away and he started kissing her back as they began to increase. Eventually he took control of the fire, moving his lips along her face and neck, then back again as her arms wrapped around his neck.

How long they stood there they knew not. Then he lifted her up in his arms and carried her to the bed.


Longbourn 1812.

A pleasant night of dreams left Elizabeth feeling more happier than she had felt for ages. She got up and dressed herself early, before leaving the house to attend to the still room. Upon entering she saw to her surprise, Kitty already there.

"Kitty?"

"I thought you might need some help as Jane usually does this with you."

"I do need some, thank you," Elizabeth replied, handing her some of the binding.

"How is Jane?" Kitty asked.

"In perfect health and very happy." Elizabeth paused, looking at her sister. Kitty had been so helpful lately, and received little notice or praise. That had to change if they were to keep the effects of Lydia wildness gone forever. "She would love to see you, I'm sure."

"She would?" Kitty blushed with happiness.

"Of course. It is just Mama she would rather not face just yet."

Kitty smiled at that before returning to the lavender.

They returned to the house for breakfast, arriving at the same as their father. Mr Bennet asked instantly after Jane, Charles and Robert, as he had not seen Lizzy until now since the visit.

Elizabeth answered satisfactorily enough, before Mrs Bennet entered, followed by Mary. Just as they had sat down, Hill came in with the mail.

"Ah, Hill is there anything from Lydia?" Mrs Bennet asked.

"Er no, Ma'am," Hill replied, walking over to Lizzy. "This is for you, Miss," she added, handing her the top most letter.

Lizzy glanced quickly at the writing. She saw straight away that it was from her Aunt.

"Well, Lizzy, who is it from?" Mrs Bennet asked eagerly.

Lizzy hesitated briefly, knowing if she told the truth Mrs Bennet might ask to see it. "A reply from a friend of mine in London," she returned.

Mrs Bennet nodded and went back to her breakfast. Elizabeth returned to hers as well, turning the letter over to conceal the handwriting. To dash out and read it now would create suspicion.

It was not until the afternoon that Elizabeth got the chance to return to the breakfast parlour where the letter still lay. A maid was cleaning the table and kindly picked up the letter and handed it to her. Elizabeth managed to take the letter from the maid quite calmly and then waited for her to leave the room before departing herself to the little copse where she was assured of some privacy. She sat down on the bench and broke the seal.

My dear niece,

I have just received your letter and shall devote this whole morning to answering it, as I foresee that a little writing will not comprise what I have to tell you. I must confess myself surprised by your application, I did not expect it from you.

Surprised, Elizabeth repeated, confused. Did her Aunt think that she knew the particulars? Why would she know them? Shaking her head she return to the letter.

Do not think me angry however, for I only meant to let you know that I did not think such enquiries to be necessary on your side. If you choose not to understand me, forgive my impertinence. Your uncle is as much surprised as I am and nothing but the belief of your being a party concerned would have allowed him to act as he has done.

My being a party concerned, Elizabeth was now really puzzled. What could her Aunt possibly mean?

Before she had any time to conjecture as to why her Aunt was of this opinion she was interrupted by her father.

"Lizzy, my dear," he began, "a carriage has arrived for you from Netherfield. Jane wishes you to have dinner with them." Seeing his daughter hesitate he added, "if you do not make haste, your mother will surely see it and insist on coming along."

Elizabeth reluctantly acknowledged that her father was right and put the letter in her pocket before returning to the house to change. She emerged ten minutes later in her green gown, got into the carriage and was away before she had any time to wonder at the early hour.

The letter was still in her possession, but the shortness of the journey prevented a further reading of its contents for all too soon was the carriage at the front entrance to Netherfield.

A footman came out to help her down and answered satisfactorily to her enquiries as to where her sister would most likely be. She thanked him for his assistance and walked into the house.

As she had been invited there was no real need for her arrival to be announced, so it came to pass that she went by herself to the drawing room that the footman had directed her to. She knew Jane would be waiting for her and would no doubt also be interested in what Aunt Gardiner had to say. It was with this in mind that she did not bother to knock before wandering in. Had she done so, she would have been forewarned, but it was not to be.

"Jane," she began upon her entrance, closing the door behind her, "I have it at last......." she trailed off as she finally noticed that Jane was not in the room. She flushed and curtseyed, quickly apologising. "I am sorry, I did not........... excuse me." She turned back to the door, laid her hand upon the knob and began to turn it when suddenly the voice of the single occupant of the room made her stop.

"Wait," said Darcy.


Chapter XXI.

Elizabeth had not meant to hesitate but hesitate she did. His voice still affected her enough for her hand to falter on the doorknob.

Darcy knew that his next words were crucial. That the next words to come out of his mouth could either make her stay or go. Direct, blunt, confession would be best, he decided. "I asked Jane to send for you."

Elizabeth turned round. "What did you tell her?" She asked in a voice struggling to find calm. She was not over him. She would never be over him.

"Only that I was in love with you and that I wanted to see you." Darcy stepped forward. "I'm love with you, Lizzy."

Without noticing, tears began to slide down her face. Her voice lost its control. "If that's true then why are you marrying someone else?"

"If you mean my cousin Anne, I'm not," Darcy replied, taking another step forward. "The only person I want to marry is you, Elizabeth. For the past few weeks you have been in my every thought. Say no if it is to be said. If your feelings are still what they were last April tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged. But one word from you will silence me on this subject forever."

For a moment Elizabeth could only look at him. Then she abandoned all thought and walked, almost ran into his arms. She clung to him in part happiness and part pure relief.

Darcy tightened his embrace. He was as much choked by tears as she. All the worry was over. He would never loose her again. He kissed her hair and then drew back, clasping her face in his hands. He smoothed away her tears and then kissed her.

How long they stood there neither of them knew. Eventually however they parted and went to sit down. There was so much to be discussed.

"How did you learn of the rumours about me and Anne?" Darcy asked her.

"Mr Collins mentioned in his letter. In fact, until then I did not know that Caroline was dead."

"Bingley never told you?"

"No. Nor Jane for that matter. When did it happen?"

"A few weeks after you left. I had just returned from London........" Darcy trailed off as Elizabeth's look turned into a triumphant smile.

"You did help them, did you not? You did help Lydia?" Elizabeth watched him struggle to reply. "Do not try to deny it, Fitzwilliam. Lydia let it slip and I could not rest until I knew the whole. I wrote to my Aunt and only today did I receive a reply. I have yet to read it, but I think I know what the contents will contain. Let me thank you on behalf of all my family........"

Darcy cut her off, bringing his fingers to her lips. "If you will thank me, let it be for yourself alone. Your family owes me nothing. As much as I respect them I believe I only thought of you." His fingers traced the outline of her lips. "I went back briefly, intending to return for the wedding. Not for a minute did I think I would be facing a funeral as well. The house was quiet, unnaturally so. She was already dying when I got there." He paused and then asked, "have you heard of Viscount Huntingdon?"

"Indeed I have," Elizabeth replied. "Why do you ask?"

"Well about a week after I left Pemberley she wrote to him. Apparently they were old acquaintances. The letter more or less offered point blank to have an affair with him. It gave me the perfect thing with which to divorce her, for until then I had nothing. He was still there when I returned."

"Does the man have no decency?"

"Apparently not," Darcy returned before proceeding to tell her the rest of the story. "I could not come till Charles sent word, however much I wanted to," he finished.

"Charles knew?" Elizabeth queried in surprise.

"He knew that I was in love with you but nothing more. I told no one the full details. Did you tell anyone?"

"I never planned to. But after Hunsford Aunt Gardiner came into my confidence. When you left all my control fled. I was inconsolable."

"But you were perfectly justified in your refusal. I had no right, no right at all to ask you then."

"I realised that when I said so, but afterwards I doubted my resolve. When Charlotte returned I practically begged her to fetch my Aunt. She took me to London. I could never hide anything from her and I was in too much of a state to even attempt it. She was a great help. She never wavered in her support." Elizabeth paused, then looked into his eyes. "Despite my anger, I would have supported you."

"In a way I am thankful you did not have to. Divorce is not a shame that can be overcome. I cannot believe I even asked you to consider it. I did not want Society judging you. I still don't. Which is why I need to ask you something."

"To delay announcing this?" Elizabeth guessed. "Of course. May is a lovely month in which to marry."

"May!?!"

"Consider the realities, Fitzwilliam. We cannot delay just a month, that will look far too suspicious. It will take at least two months to prepare the wedding. It is now December, which gives us over eight weeks."

"In that case," Darcy began with a smile, taking her hands in his, "may I be allowed to court you, my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth, until such a time has elapsed enough to convince the rest of the neighbourhood of the love I feel for you?"

"You may," Elizabeth returned grandly. "Although a fortnight will be enough to convince Mama," she added, as Darcy kissed her hands.

They spent the next few minutes deciding on particulars before moving on to discussing the past that they had spent together. "I never realised until afterwards," Darcy remarked, "how close I had come to admitting my feelings to you."

"Why did you not?"

"I was scared you felt differently. And even if I had it would not have changed matters. If anything it would have made it harder."

"When did you fall in love with me then?" Elizabeth asked playfully.

"I cannot fix upon the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words which lay the foundation. I was in the middle before I knew I had begun. I realised I think when you returned to Hertfordshire before Charles rented this place. When did you know?"

"I knew at Kympton as much as I tried to deny it to myself. I do not know when it began."

Darcy then went on to relate how his cousin had guessed at Hunsford. "He bombarded me until I confessed it was true. He took great delight in telling me that even a blind man could spot it."

Elizabeth laughed at that and then took the opportunity to more into his arms. Darcy enclosed his arms around her.

He began to tell her how much he loved her, how important she was to him.

They began to talk of the future, of the plans they had always imagined, even when other events had seemed to served as omens of doom, but which now could become reality. Both felt safe now, secure in their beliefs that nothing would separate them. They had overcome all the difficulties and achieved what had only months ago seemed impossible.

"How is Lady Catherine going to react to this?" Elizabeth asked after awhile.

"She already knows."

"She knows? How come?"

"She came to London to talk to me about the rumours believing them to be true. I calmly stood my ground and told her that I did not want to marry Anne. She was most displeased," Darcy finished with a slight laugh at the memory. "Of course she left before asking who it was I wanted to marry." He kissed her longingly. "Charles is going to tire of me, for I am not moving from Netherfield until you and I are married."

"But what about Pemberley? And Georgiana?"

"I'm sure I can invite her over and Pemberley can be easily maintained by correspondence. I am never leaving your side again, Lizzy. You are my life and nothing will come between us."

Eventually the conversation turned to what had happened at Netherfield before Elizabeth came over.

"I arrived somewhat unexpectedly early this morning," Darcy began in his reply to Elizabeth's query. "Charles had already told Jane about it all so........"

"Jane knew?" Elizabeth repeated, surprised. "No wonder she was so persistent."

Now it was Darcy's turn to be puzzled. "Why? What happened?"

Elizabeth explained the events of the morning of the day before she had been to see Robert for the first time. "I eventually told her that she knew him but that I would not reveal his name. I also mentioned that I knew you felt the same way which is probably why she persisted so much. Then Charles entered and any further conversation was at an end." Elizabeth sighed. "I ought to tell her all. She deserves to know after doing this for us. We tell each other everything else. If kept this hidden it might wreck our friendship."

"Do you think they would be willing to help us?" Darcy asked.

"I think so, why?"

"I believe I will be needing moral support to get through this," he replied with a grin. "For I had planned a March wedding at the latest."

"And what would society say to that, sir?"

"For one kiss I would no longer give a damn what society thinks," Darcy replied with a wicked grin. He turned to Elizabeth looking expectantly into her fine eyes. "What," he began after a minute, "am I not to be satisfied?"

"If you cannot contain yourself, sir, then I must do so," Elizabeth returned, running a finger down his lips instead. "However, I will attempt to try and ease the wait for you by proceeding to tell you of my very great affection for you."

Darcy kept his smile. "And I happily receive that, my love. And in return I will describe to you the extent of my devotion to you." He bestowed another kiss upon her lips just then, which caused them both to forget the world for a little while. The restraint, however, difficult as it was, had to be observed.

"So," Lizzy began reluctantly, "what are we going to do when Jane and Charles come back in?"

Darcy admitted he did not know what they could do for the thought of that had not entered his head when he had, on impulse, asked Jane to invite Elizabeth over. The two had obviously purposely left them alone in order for them to confess to each other their mutual regard. They had no idea of the full details of them, and that they already knew each others feelings. What could they do?

"We cannot continue as we are," Darcy concluded after some hesitation on his part.

"Yes, that much is certain," Elizabeth agreed. "However we cannot also pretend to be common acquaintances either."

Darcy nodded. "Both of them know that we are in love and have put two and two together about it."

"There is one option," Elizabeth realised after awhile. "I could go and meet them in the garden and pretend I have yet to see you."

"That could work," Darcy agreed before his eyes checked the clock on the mantle place. "Except that we have been talking far too long for that to work." He paused, thinking and then realised the obvious. "We could just tell them. It is what they would be expecting. After all, they set this up in the first place."

"Yes we could just tell them."

"Tell us what?" Mr Bingley asked as he walked into the room with his wife.


Chapter XXII.

Let all other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everyone to a state of pure bliss.

Elizabeth confided everything in Jane that very night. To say that Mrs Bingley was not surprised would be untrue, for indeed she was most surprised, but other than that she had no objections. The romance of it appealed to her nature and after half a night spent in conversation she became a most willing assistant in their plans.

True to his word Darcy publicly wooed and courted Elizabeth Bennet until such a time had passed as to set the match as credence, although Mrs Bennet had predicted its fruition within a fortnight! At every social evening he sought only Elizabeth's company and stood up with only Elizabeth at every ball. He deployed his diplomacy well, managing to secure the good favour, regard and respect of not just Elizabeth's family but the entire neighbourhood as well.

Mr Bennet gladly gave his consent when it was called for, having expected to be deprived of Elizabeth for quite some time. The loss of his favourite daughter was a considerable burden to bear and for her sake he tried to remedy that by employing himself in the improvement of Kitty and Mary. He also delighted in going to Pemberley, as often as he could and when he was at the least expected.

The Bingleys stayed at Netherfield no more than a year after that. The nearness of Mrs Bennet warranted the move and so they began to look for somewhere else. The estate of their dreams was eventually found in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire, not thirty miles from the Darcys, causing great joy, in more than one quarter.

Elizabeth finally read her Aunt's letter the next day. The answer was no longer a surprise to her, informed as she had been the day before of Darcy's actions in the affair. She was now thankful for its delay for she knew that her state of mind would have not been prepared for it any earlier.

The end of the letter had revealed her Aunt's confidence that an eventually happy union would have come to her niece, and even though it had, Elizabeth knew if she had received the letter any earlier she would have been too cross to reply.

Her Aunt had supposed more than had existed, but now Elizabeth was happy enough to indulge her on the expectations she had speculated. She wrote back instantly, commanding her Aunt to let loose of her fancy and unless she presumed them to be already married, she would not greatly err.

Darcy delayed any correspondence of his until they were officially engaged, whereupon he wrote reams of letters, all expressing an overwhelming happiness and gratitude to be joined to a woman he loved. He received short approving replies from all except his cousin Richard, and Georgiana, whom for both four sides of paper was not sufficient enough to contain their delight.

Richard and Anne eventually married but two months after the Darcys, much to Lady Catherine's displeasure. She denied all knowledge of both families and wrote a letter to her nephew of language so abusive of Elizabeth that for a while all communication between them was at an end. However Elizabeth eventually persuaded her husband to attempt a reconciliation and after a number of years had passed, both families were once again welcomed into the house.

The Darcys were declared to be the most devoted and happiest of couples, and neither ever strayed from the other. His affection for her increased every day and hers always remained constant to his. They never doubted again the love, affection and heartfelt devotion they had for each other. They had five children, a heir and spare, and three girls. All would set the ton alight when their coming outs were set in motion.

The Bingleys likewise enjoyed a happy marriage, although only three children graced their halls. Both families constantly visited the other, always staying for a week or more at the respective estates.

As for Georgiana her home was Pemberley until her marriage at the age of twenty to a wealthy and prosperous gentleman heir to an baronet that adored her as much as she did him. They never strayed far from the reach of the Darcys and constant visits were exchanged on their sides as well.

One final thing should be noted. That is that every year without fail the Darcys would once again grace the halls and ballroom of Lord and Lady Harwood's London abode. They remained always on the most intimate terms with them, both ever sensible of the gratitude that was due to the persons who, by inviting them both to that ball in the first place, had been the means of uniting them.

The End.
© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2011.


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