a discovery of witches poster
alesha dixon poster
hugh thompson drawing from pride and prejudice
britney spears image
buffy ad angel manip
captain swan
west wing
white collar
x files

© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2002-2021. All rights reserved.

fanfiction.net link

tumblr link

archive of our own link

derbyshire writers guild link

obidala forums link

Link Here:


Daniellas Bureau; A Fanfic & Desktop Site

The Tragedy of A Woman:

Volume One.


"There is only one real tragedy in a woman's life.
The fact that her past is always her lover,
and her future, invariably, her husband."

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).


To any but the untrained eye, the estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire, would look to be in perfect harmony. It was run smoothly, the servants had little to complain of and much to rejoice about. They had the best in masters and until six months ago, the best in mistresses. Now however, matters had changed considerably.

They still had the best in masters, despite the fact that they sometimes thought his actions to be unwise, but their mistress had changed, from their master's younger sister, to their master's new wife, whose ways and manners differed from their old mistress considerably. However, their master was their master and to voice their opinions would surely cost them their jobs. For now they just did their best to restrain themselves and hope for better things, which, judging by the events recently, had the possibility of occurring shortly.

At the moment they did their best to avoid the east drawing room, as the raised voices of their aforementioned master and mistress could easily be heard emanating from behind it's closed doors. The footmen who could not avoid it, stood idly by and tried in vain not to over hear the argument that was plainly taking place.

"Lest you forget Madam, this marriage was all of your own making."

"I have never forgotten, unlike..........."

"Then cease complaining about your present situation." And with that he left her alone, slamming the door behind him.

Caroline Darcy voiced her frustration in one long loud exclamation. She was rapidly regretting this marriage which had been all her doing, and she knew that her husband had started to regret it much longer. She also had a suspicion that he had a mistress, one of recent standing, for lately he seemed much more in control of not only his temper but also the marriage and particularly her place in it.

There was a time when Caroline had been an equal partner in this marriage, running the estates just as a lady of them should. Yet a few months ago, the whole control had simply disappeared. Her husband had done it carefully, cleverly and cautiously, removing her authority bit by bit until all that remained was her personal maid. Darcy now had complete control of everything, including what remained of her inheritance and her dowry. For the first time in her life Caroline was powerless and it was something that she did not like, not could she bare it any longer.

Once outside the Drawing Room Darcy sent one of the bystander footman to run down to the stables and prepare one of his horses. He then went to change into riding clothes, his mind still reeling with anger over the most recent argument with his wife. Ultimately, he knew that despite all his denials he was really the one who had made the marriage. Caroline might have begun the process but the final decision had still been his. And he had regretted the instantly it was done. Yet done it was and only an act of Parliament could undo, an act which required a great deal of money which Darcy had and contacts which he had not. Not yet anyway.

Sheltered in a small valley on the vast estate of the Darcy country seat was the rectory of Kympton. The house was hardly the most suitable place to house a mistress, even temporarily, especially an unmarried one at that, yet it was the only empty tenancy and quite far from it's parish village which reported to another priest.

Darcy let himself in and sat in the drawing room, waiting her return. An hour later he heard the quiet click of the lock and automatically bowed as the door opened a second later.

"I did not expect you," she remarked by way of greeting.

"I did not plan on it," he replied and then elaborated on the comment. "I lost my temper at her and needed somewhere to calm down. This place just seemed to be it." He looked up at her and slowly stated, "I am not expecting anything to happen."

"I know, but it probably will anyway," she quietly replied, crossing over to join him by the window seat. He took her hand in his and remarked for the tenth time, "I wish it could be different. I know it cannot but all the same I wish it."

"I know, so do I." With that she raised his hand to her lips and bestowed a kiss upon it. Darcy allowed the hand to caress her cheek and sighed wistfully. "I am sorry my dearest," he added, "I do not mean to make you discontent, it is merely my own melancholy not yours."

"I care about you, so it has become mine as well," She responded comfortingly, leaning into his caress. If truth be known she was close to falling in love with him, but the situation was far too tenable to even consider it. He was married, she was not. He had money and a family name, she did not. Her own family had no idea where she was, a part of this which she hated, for despite all their faults, she loved them dearly. Yet, she knew the realities of her position. If her family were to learn of this, even the ones who properly knew her disposition, they would cast her off and the situation would become public. So, as far as they knew, she was staying with a London acquaintance, which in way, was actually true.

She had met Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy while attending her Aunt's friend's ball. Her Aunt's friend, Lady Harwood, had known the Dracys a long time and it was her who first introduced them. It was obvious even then that Mr Darcy did not get on with his wife. What was obvious was his gentlemen-like nature which she had accidentally encountered on one of the many balconies of the Ballroom. It was there that they had first established a rapport and the rest came rapidly. Now, she was falling in love with him and she feared the inevitable end. "I cannot stay long here," she now remarked sadly. "My family will require me back soon."

"Of course. I'll arrange a carriage to take you home."

"I'd much rather take post. Mama can spot a family crest ten miles off."

"I do have a blank one. And I insist." She silently accepted him, whereupon he kissed her to seal the bargain, and the kiss, invariably as ones between lovers do, led to other things.

Chapter I.

As the Netherfield party entered Meryton Assembly rooms, Mr Darcy saw her instantly. She was talking with two ladies which he determined one of to be her elder sister. The other, Miss Charlotte Lucas, he had already met yesterday. He turned and found his wife with her sister Louisa Hurst, leaving him free to slip from her presence and join his brother in law and owner of Netherfield, Charles Bingley.

"Jane, Lizzy!" Their mother cried, calling them to come over to her. When they had joined her Mrs Bennet continued with, "do you see that gentlemen over there? Lady Lucas has just told me he is Mr Bingley's oldest friend. His name is Darcy and he has a great estate in Derbyshire. Bingley's wealth is nothing compared to his. Ten thousand a year at least. Would he not be fine for you Jane?"

"He would," Elizabeth answered her mother, although she knew it to be false, "if he were not married, Mama."

"Married? Who told you that, Lizzy?"

"Charlotte," Elizabeth lied, realising her mistake. She would have to be more careful in future.

"Mrs Bennet," Sir William Lucas began, bringing Elizabeth back to reality. "Mr Bingley has expressed a wish of becoming acquainted with you and your daughters."

"Sir that is very good of you. This is Jane, my eldest. And Elizabeth. And Mary sits over there. And Kitty and Lydia are my youngest you see there dancing. Do you like to dance yourself, sir?"

Mr Bingley either took the bait or took the opportunity and soon secured a dance with Miss Jane Bennet. Their mother meanwhile, her task of capturing Bingley complete, turned away in time for Mr Darcy to secure his mistress for a dance as well.

Elizabeth was surprised he had asked her but accepted nonetheless, just as the music ended ready for another tune. Darcy took her hand and led her to join the other couples, at the same time noticing Bingley's look. He would have to have a talk with him later. For now he forgot his brother in law and turned to his dancing partner with, "we need to talk."

Elizabeth did not ask why, for such a discussion could not be carried on in a ballroom. She simply accepted and suggested the small study which lay opposite the assembly room's entrance. This now left the rest of the dance to devote trivial matters which other people were at liberty to hear and not breed rumours out of.

When the dance had ended, Darcy escorted her to her friend, before parting from her to join his. Bingley immediately accosted him with the question, "What on earth were you doing, Darce?"

"Dancing," his friend replied composedly.

"You never dance in a country assembly. Why now? You know it will only annoy Caroline all the more."

"It is precisely for that reason that I did it, Charles," Darcy explained before lowering his voice to continue. "You know how things are between Caroline and myself lately."

"I know," Mr Bingley replied. "And I know why. It cannot carry on for ever."

"I do not intend it to."

"Darce, are you contemplating.........." Bingley trailed off. He knew what that look meant when he saw it. "Well, all that remains for me to say is that I am still your friend, whether you stay my brother or not. I put your happiness above my sister's."

"Thank you, Charles, thank you. However I think Caroline will not oppose my actions."

"She may quarrel with you Darce, but she wants the marriage to survive." Bingley paused and then asked, "have you the connections to do it?"

Before Darcy could reply he saw Elizabeth exit the room. It was time to end this conversation. "I have my Uncle's approval," was his reply to Bingley's question, causing a gasp from him. Mr Bingley knew only too well who his uncle was. "Please," his friend added, "do not tell Caroline of this yet, Charles. I do not want her to know until it is certain." Then with his friend's assurance of secrecy, Mr Darcy expressed a need for some fresh air and parted from him.

Elizabeth Bennet lit a candle, and placed it on one of the tables that were situated in the room. She then sat down and waited for Mr Darcy to arrive. She knew it was dangerous, that his being here increased the possibility of someone finding out about them. But for once she did not care. The absences were getting harder to bare and Elizabeth welcomed her lover's presence.

She looked up as she heard the click of the latch on the door, signalling his arrival. "Fitzwilliam," she uttered in greeting as he came in.

"Elizabeth." He closed the door and took her in his arms. He wanted to tell her everything, but he knew he could not. Not until it was certain. He had only just begun it. He drew back from her and led her to the table where the candle was and they sat down in it's light.

At first their talk was of the events that had taken place in their lives while they had been parted, what had occurred at Pemberley, at Longbourn, what, if any, relatives had visited, the well being of their immediate relations, before touching upon the subject of how long he was to stay at Netherfield Park.

"As long as Bingley wishes it. I am entirely at his disposal." Darcy reached out and took her hand in his. "I will depart at once, if you wish me to."

"Why would I wish you to depart?" She asked rhetorically. "I am just concerned that some one might find out. Meryton is a small community and rumours run riot."

"I would never expect you to feel obligated to fulfil my desires, whenever I wanted you to, nor would I ask you to do so, unless you wanted to also."

"But, I am your mistress, I am supposed to............" Elizabeth trailed off, uncertain how to finish her objection. If he asked her, she would anyway, for she wanted him as much as he wanted her. My reputation is already ruined, she thought, what would be accomplished by withholding desires now, when they had been already acted on, long ago.

"I would not have you comprised, my darling. You are single, in all respects." As much as I wish you were not. He grimaced. He was having difficulty in explaining to her what he meant, because he could not be completely frank with her. The realities of their relationship barred either of them from being frank about anything, especially their own feelings.

She was his mistress, and a mistress was supposed to fulfil the desires of a man who lacked such things in his marriage, or to perhaps teaching them to him, if he was innocent of that nature of life. Darcy desired neither in the case of his, but the matters which lay between them were still complicated nonetheless.

He was falling love with her, and feared the inevitable end. He did not want her to feel tied to him in any way. She should be free to fall in love while she still can, he realised. I have no rights to expect the privilege of it, no matter what happens. I should end this, whether I want it to be over or not.

What is his meaning, she wondered. Does he mean to be rid of me? However she said none of this, asking instead, "does 'she' know?" Hoping to gain her answer that way.

Darcy knew all too well who 'she' was. "She has suspicions, but has nothing to either prove or disprove them. She will never find out."

Elizabeth was about to have replied had it not been for the sound of voices becoming audible to them. She blew out the candle and they waited for the voices to die out, before they quitted the room and returned to the assembly room, to prevent their presence from being missed and the rumours that could be speculated about them from the result of such an absence. Their conversation was over for the moment.

The morning after the Meryton assembly announced by its sunny prospect that another fine autumnal day was about to occur, delaying the inset of winter a little longer. The countryside glowed with the last of the un-harvested crop and the summer bright green grass of the bare unowned fields of the Hertfordshire land.

Elizabeth Bennet was at the moment surveying the green but owned part of the Bennet land in the garden of her fathers estate, Longbourn. Her thoughts however lay not with the scenery but with the events of her life, which she needed to sort out and reflect upon, before her family and others interrupted her solitude.

At times she wondered what she doing and why she was doing it. She was unmarried, just twenty years old and having an affair with a married man who she was falling in love with and who, judging by last night, was tired of her. The affair was wrong anyway and she should have stopped it long ago. She could confide it in nobody, even those that were close to her, which numbered only three; her father, her Aunt and her sister Jane, and all of those would be as shocked as the rest of her family and acquaintances, if they even learned of what she had been doing for three months.

Before Elizabeth could begin to reflect upon the events of last night, her sister came out of one of the side doors to collect some flowers to refresh the vases of the formal and family and rooms. It was a task which the five Bennet girls took delight in taking responsibility of, as it often afforded some time away from their siblings and their dear Mama.

Mrs Bennet was a good mother to her children, and now having raised them, was anxious to see that they all married well, preferably as soon as possible. So whenever a single man of good fortune showed attention to one of her girls, even if it was only a few dances, she immediately did her best to ensure an engagement resulted from it, with no concern for the feelings of the daughter in question.

Jane, her eldest and her second favourite, was the subject of such a matchmaking scheme, and in this case the lady in question was of a nature that delighted to please everyone and who would not dare thinking of refusing her mother's wishes, for she saw the good in everyone. On this occasion though, she was much pleased with the gentlemen that was to become the unknowing victim of it.

"He is just what a young man ought to be, Lizzy. Sensible, lively, and I never saw such happy manners."

"And handsome too, which a young man ought to be if he possibly can. And he seems to like you very much, which shows good judgement. No, I give you leave to like him, you've liked many a stupider person."

Jane chuckled at her sisters decision. "What did you think of his sisters?"

"That he has misfortune in the choice of them."

"You did not like them?"

"No at all, their manners are quite different from his."

"At first perhaps, but after awhile I found them very pleasing. I am sure they will prove to be very charming acquaintances."

"One of them maybe."

"I am sure you are wrong. And what did you think of Mr Darcy?"

Elizabeth tried to appear casual in her reply. "Why do you ask, Jane?"

"Because while you were dancing with him you seemed to like him very much."

Dear Jane, if you only knew how much I liked him. "He appeared to be much like his friend, only with perhaps the greater seriousness of a married man." Why do I always bring that up, Elizabeth wondered. She raised her eyes to see her sister's reply but encountered instead the figure of her friend Charlotte Lucas coming through the archway of the driveway. "Oh look, Charlotte has come," she announced to Jane before running off to greet her.

This meeting of friends resulted in an evening spent at Lucas Lodge, to which many of their acquaintance had been invited also, most notably the Netherfield part and the local Militia officers of which Elizabeth's youngest sisters had already set their caps at.

Kitty and Lydia Bennet were girls of seventeen and fifteen whose behaviour sometimes cause much worry to their elder sisters. The latter was her Mama's dearest and well nigh spoilt while the former followed her younger sister in all her schemes. Both the elder sisters were of the opinion that Kitty only needed time apart from Lydia to escape the damage but that Lydia was likely to be beyond repair, although Jane was in disagreement with Elizabeth on the last point.

The evening at Lucas Lodge afforded Lizzy the time to examine and study the character traits of a lady that was much her concern; Caroline Darcy. She had not seen much of the lady at London and had only gained her impressions of her through observances on her appearance and manner at the Meryton Assembly.

A fifteen minute study was enough to confirm her initial judgement. Mrs Darcy was proud, arrogant and times deceitful, particularly when displaying an affection to her husband which he obviously had rarely received from her. She was also well aware of her station in life and often made it evident to those which she considered inferior to her and was clearly condescending in her methods.

"I do not know how you stand her," Elizabeth whispered softly to her love during a moment of the evening that afforded them the opportunity to talk without being overheard.

"Neither do I at times," Darcy replied softly back. Which is why I avoid her as much as possible. "However, I have learnt how to bare her attentions and ways with more composure lately."

Is this because of me? No, I must not presume on the basis of one statement. However before Elizabeth could reply her friend began to make her way over to them. She quickly thought of a remark that could not be questioned as inappropriate. "Did not you think, Mr Darcy, that I expressed myself uncommonly well just now, when I was teasing Colonel Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?"

Darcy wondered briefly what Elizabeth was doing before he too saw Charlotte Lucas. Quickly he replied with, "with great energy;- but it is a subject which always makes a lady energetic."

"You are severe on us," Elizabeth returned good-humouredly as Charlotte appeared by her side with a smile. "It will be her turn soon to be teased," Miss Lucas began, having heard, as they intended her to, the last part of their conversation. "I am going to open the instrument, Eliza, and you know what follows."

"You are a very strange creature by way of a friend," Elizabeth concluded after taking in the unspoken challenge, "always wanting me to play and sing before anybody and everybody! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been invaluable, but as it is, I would really rather not sit down before those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best performers."

Upon hearing this Darcy found it very difficult to not look surprised, for this was a side of her character he had never seen before. What else do I not know about her, he wondered to himself as he watched Elizabeth finally submitting to her friend's perseverance.

Her performance was not of a master, but pleasing to the ear nonetheless, and Darcy found he had rarely heard his wife or even his sister, who was the more proficient of the two, sing with such feeling. He found himself impatient to hear more, but it was not to be gainsaid for Elizabeth was obliged to give up the pianoforte to her younger sister Mary, whose style, Darcy soon found out, lacked both taste and accomplishment, a thing which the previous performer had in abundance. He turned to find her once more but instead was forced to keep a distance as she was talking with her friend. However, although he could not take part in the conversation he could listen to it at leisure.

"I see that Mr Bingley continues his attentions to Jane, Lizzy."

Elizabeth turned briefly to look at the couple in question before remarking, "I am very happy for her Charlotte."

"She does seem well pleased with him."

"I think if he continues so, she is a fair way to be being very much in love with him."

"And Mr Bingley, does he return this love?"

"It appears that he likes her very much."

Upon hearing this part of the conversation, Darcy turned to look at the couple in question. He knew that his friend perceived Miss Bennet to be an absolute Angel, but as to feelings of love it was really too early to judge. Darcy however resolved to closely observe his friend from now onwards. He returned to the conversation just in time to catch Miss Lucas' opinion on the subject.

"Then she should leave him in no doubt of her heart. She should show more affection, even than she feels, not less if she is to secure him."

"Secure him! Charlotte!"

"Yes, she should secure him as soon as may be."

"Before she is sure of his character, before she is even certain of her own regard for him?"

"But of course. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance you know. There will always be vexation and grief. And it is better not to know in advance the defects of your partner, is it not now?"

Elizabeth chuckled as she replied, "Charlotte, you know it is not sound, you would never act like this yourself."

"Well we know Jane will not, so we must hope that Mr Bingley will."

Darcy had much to wonder at after this point. Miss Lucas was speaking in a serious tone and it was true that her opinions were what most ladies employed, indeed he had seen it himself many times. He also considered Elizabeth's objections and despite his impartiality to her, he could not help but agree with her, particularly in light of his own marriage. He had only know Caroline for eight months before their wedding, time enough one might think to secure her character, yet her preference for his status in society had concealed her imperfections, and he had bee far too eager to avoid the rest of society's husband seeking band to wait any longer. The matter had been beyond his ability to change by the time he saw the faults.

So, with Elizabeth's judgement in mind, he became an observer of his friend and her sister for the rest of the evening.

Chapter II.

As morning dawned at Netherfield all occupants bar were found to be asleep in their beds.

Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy was an early riser by nature and was spending the hours before the rest of the house was awake touring the grounds upon his steed. His mind however, was not occupied with the delights that Netherfield's land had to offer, but on the events of the previous evening and what conclusions he could gain from such events.

Indeed there was much to thought about and much to conclude. His friend and brother in law's actions were the first to take centre stage. He had noticed that much of Bingley's attention had been focused upon Miss Jane Bennet, in a manner which Darcy had often seen his friend acquire whenever a beautiful belle of society secured his favour.

However this time that had not been the case; instead it had been Bingley who had made the first move and secured Miss Bennet's attentions. Although this signalled a difference in the usual run of events, it was not enough to draw a conclusion as to the state of Bingley's affections. That Charles liked and admired her was certain, and that she returned the attentions was evident enough. But it was too early to draw any firm or intelligent conclusions, so Darcy found his mind drifting to other, less pleasant thoughts.

Foremost in his mind was the ever present situation of his marriage. With his inquiries likely to take awhile, there was nothing which could ease his situation at this time. Caroline was not a woman to be trifled with, at least not indiscreetly, and Darcy knew all too well that he was playing with fire if he continued the affair with Elizabeth while he was in Hertfordshire.

Yet the temptation was almost impossible to resist. If she were not living with her family........ he shrugged off the thought and with a slap on the rump of his horse he charged into the countryside.

It was evident by late afternoon that Caroline Darcy was back to her normal self, despite the fight that had occurred last night between Darcy and herself about not dancing with her, when she announced that Miss Jane Bennet had been invited to dinner, only after her brother had confirmed his, her brother in law's, and her husband's intentions to dine with the officers that evening.

Her announcement caused her brother discomfort and her husband even more anger at her character. He knew all too well what would happen that evening; Caroline and Louisa would greet Jane Bennet kindly, then find out her family situation and her wealth, if she had any.

If they liked what they heard, and he had a feeling they would not, they would seek the earliest opportunity to tell her that their brother was engaged, most likely to his sister, if Darcy remembered correctly. He had seen it happen too many times. He was sure now that he must be rid of Caroline and soon, whatever the consequences.

Mr Bingley was disappointed that he would not see Jane and was for awhile angry at his sisters for only informing him when his appointments for the evening could not be changed. Silently he prayed that something would cause him to see her again. He also knew what his sisters did whenever he took particular liking to a lady. He had never met such a angel and he was determined to keep on meeting her.

By the time they had returned later that night Mr Bingley's wish was granted, although not in the way he had wanted it to be, in fact it made him heartily sorry that he had prayed for such a thing to occur.

Instead of coming by carriage to dine at Netherfield Miss Bennet had arrived on horseback, an instance which, because of the rain that had landed during the evening, resulted in her being the victim of a cold and forced to partake of the guest rooms at the Hall. It was an occasion which had caused much discussion between Caroline Darcy and Louisa Hurst, a discussion which they obligingly repeated to the returned gentlemen, much to their distaste and displeasure.

As far as Mr Darcy was concerned his thoughts were much at Longbourn that evening as he was inclined to wonder if Netherfield would be receiving another visitor tomorrow in the form of Miss Elizabeth Bennet. It was an event that he had great hopes of becoming reality for it would afford him much more time to exchange views with her about her sister and his brother in law.

Sure enough that morning as Darcy was taking a walk in the Netherfield gardens, he encountered Elizabeth Bennet. Her features were flushed having walked- he presumed -from Longbourn and it caused a pleasing sight to be behold.

"Let me guess," he said by way of greeting after checking no one else was in hearing distance, "you're here because you cannot bare to be without me any longer."

"Quite the contrary," she replied, "I am here to see my sister."

Darcy pretended to be shocked. "Oh, I am most disappointed. However, allow me to take you to her." Upon her consent he added, still in mock despair, "my heart is forever broken by this disappointment."

"You are incorrigible!" Elizabeth admonished, good-humouredly. Darcy chuckled and continued, although on a different topic, "I can hear Bingley's sisters now, did you see her petticoat, sister? Six inches deep in mud, I'm absolutely certain!"

"Stop that!"

But Darcy did not and eventually Elizabeth cracked and the two burst into laughter before entering the confines of Netherfield, whereupon they calmed themselves down and walked on to where Jane was situated. Darcy escorted her to the door, then parted for her to inform the others of her arrival.

Elizabeth spent just under a half hour with her sister before entering the dining room to announce her presence. She quickly glanced at Darcy to find him staring out the window, in an attempt to conceal his smile. She then turned to Mr Bingley, who clearly anxious, asked, "how does your sister do?"

"I am afraid she is quite unwell, Mr Bingley."

"I shall send for Mr Jones. And you must stay here until your sister is recovered."

"Oh, I would not wish to inconvenience you," Elizabeth replied, causing Darcy to ponder why. Is it out of propriety or does she mean to avoid me? However his fears were soon put to rest as Elizabeth accepted Mr Bingley's kind offer.

As for Elizabeth herself it was for the former of Darcy's fears that she was at first reluctant to accept Mr Bingley's offer. She had no wish to avoid Mr Darcy at present.

As soon as Elizabeth's stay was confirmed, she exited once more in order to return to her sister. As predicted, Caroline and Louisa began to abused her as soon as she was out of the room.

"I could hardly keep my countenance. What does she mean by scampering about the country because her sister had a cold? Her hair, Louisa!"

"And her petticoat!" Mrs Hurst added, "I hope your saw her petticoat, brother. Six inches deep in mud, I'm absolutely certain."

As Caroline nodded her agreement, their brother expressed his own viewpoint. "I'm afraid the petticoat quite escaped my notice. I thought she looked remarkably well."

"You observed it, my husband, I'm sure," Caroline, unsatisfied with her brother's view, now tried her husband for support.

"I did," was all the reply she received. Caroline continued to persist. "I am sure you would not wish your sister to appear in such a fashion."

"Certainly not." In fact, I would give anything to see my sister become as confident as Elizabeth. Nevertheless, anything for a quiet life. With an disagreement both this morning and the night before, Darcy was looking forward to some peace.

Caroline now satisfied, returned to her sister to continue the vocal discussion of her opinion. Her husband returned to gazing out of the window, letting his wife's monotonous abuse wash over him, eventually losing track of it altogether.

Darcy did not encounter Elizabeth's company again until later that day, whilst enjoying a game of billiards away from his wife. The sight of her -Elizabeth not Caroline- had been enough to take his breath away. "Hello," he greeted with, adding a moment later, "beautiful."

Elizabeth blushed, as his meaning was evident. She wanted to return the compliment, but could not find the words. Instead she accounted for her presence. "The footman informed me that you were all in the drawing room, but neglected to give me directions."

"They have a an annoying habit of doing that," Darcy agreed.

"Would you be kind enough to perform the task then, sir?"

"You could stay here with me. No one would know."

"A nice idea but as I said to Jane superior sisters wish me miles away."

"You are perfectly right." And with that, Darcy gave her the direction.

When she was gone he formed the resolution of leaving his next move to the chance of the game. If he hit the ball and it missed the hole, he would sacrifice an evening in her company. If it found the hole.......... He hit the ball. Bulls-eye.

Upon entering the drawing room he found out that Elizabeth had taken up a book, while his wife and the others were occupied in playing cards. Having no wish to join the latter he stepped forward to disturb the former with an enquiry after the health of her sister. Once this was answered he expressed his gladness on hearing it before moving to the writing bureau with the intention of composing a letter to his sister.

After a few minutes of blessed silence Caroline uttered an exasperated sound at her brother in law before turning to direct her sister to ask, "will you not join us, Miss Bennet?"

"I thank you no," was her reply.

"You prefer reading to cards," Mr Hurst commented, "that is most singular!"

"Miss Bennet," Caroline interjected, "despises cards. She is a great reader and takes pleasure in nothing else."

"I deserve neither such praise, nor such censure," Elizabeth returned, her opinion clear to Darcy on which she viewed Caroline's judgement to be. "I am not a great reader and take pleasure in many things." Particularly your husband.

Mr Bingley then entered the conversation, with the intention to introduce his angel into the room. "In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure and I hope it will soon be increased by seeing her quite well."

As Elizabeth thanked him, Darcy rolled his eyes and returned to his letter, only to be interrupted again, this time by his wife.

"And what do you do so secretly, sir?"

"It is no secret," he replied to Caroline's question, "I am merely writing to my sister."

Instead of shutting Caroline up, the comment spurred her to continue. "Oh dear Georgiana, how I long to see her."

Rest assured Caroline, the feeling is not mutual. "You saw her not seven days ago."

"Then, pray, why are writing to her?"

"Because she has sent me a letter." None of your business.

"Why have I not seen it?"

Darcy did not reply to that question, instead he just looked at her. The look betrayed his feelings perfectly, but unfortunately Caroline did not burn beneath it's flames. Instead she changed tactics.

"And so accomplished! Her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite! Do you play, Miss Bennet?"

"Surely you heard her last night?" Her brother queried, much to her chagrin. The conversation died, and Darcy was left to finish his letter in peace.

Just before Elizabeth retired for the night she went to check on Jane one final time. When she had made sure that her sister lacked nothing she closed the door to Jane's room to find Mr Darcy waiting outside it.

"And what are you doing here?"

"I thought I could take the liberty of escorting to you to my room," came the blunt reply.

"What about Caroline?"

"Her room is the other end of the wing. We have never.........."

"Oh." Elizabeth paused and Darcy took the opportunity to take her into his arms and kiss her, after checking the corridor was empty.

The kiss was short. "Are you mad?" Elizabeth asked, as she pulled back to check the hallway for servants.

"Are you coming or not?" He calmly asked back.

Elizabeth turned back to look at him as she considered. Slowly she put her hand in his.

Chapter III.

They both woke and parted at dawn, before the servants could discover them. Elizabeth escaped undetected, but Darcy was not so lucky, in fact he had only time to put on his dressing gown when Caroline came through the door.

"Where were you last night?"

Darcy groaned as he realised what Caroline was referring to. "About that, I was going to explain........"

"What is there to explain? Do you want children?"

Not with you, that's for sure. "If you will let me finish. It is a tradition for the heir to be born at Pemberley and as our stay here is indefinite," he paused here to silently utter thanks, "anything that needs to done should be delayed as it might cause us to stay longer than necessary."

Caroline either took the lie as truth or chose to recognise the logic of his argument. She exited as suddenly as she had entered, slamming the door as Darcy's valet walked in, a thing which caused the latter to almost drop his masters clothes.

Upon visiting her sister that morning Elizabeth found Jane to be improved a very great deal, and was able to answer Mr Bingley's enquiries satisfactorily. However, despite this, she knew that she would have to invite her mother to visit, before Mrs Bennet imposed herself upon them to offer her judgement of events. It was with intense reluctance that Elizabeth posted the invitation, for she knew what to expect the instant her mother arrived.

Mrs Bennet arrived with such rapid speed that it was a wonder to think she had received her daughter's note at all, and quickly passed her judgement on her eldest. That Jane was in no apparent danger was a relief, but that she was requesting to be moved home was not, for Mrs Bennet saw no reason for such an event to occur. Illnesses did wonderful things for love, as she assured her youngest daughters Kitty and Lydia, whom she had brought for no apparent reason whatsoever.

The visitors returned to the breakfast parlour and Mrs Bennet met Mr Bingley's enquiries with, "indeed I have, sir. She is a great deal too ill to be moved. Mr Jones says we must not think of moving her." Mr Jones had said no such thing, but a doctor's opinion always enforced a mother's wish. "We must trespass a little longer on your kindness."

"Removed!" Cried Mr Bingley. "It must not be thought of. My sisters I am sure, will not hear of her removal."

"You may depend on it, madam," Caroline said, her own feelings quite the opposite to her brothers, "that Miss Bennet shall receive every possible attention while she remains with us."

"Oh you are very good," was Mrs Bennet's reply, completely missing the cold civility with which Caroline answered. Then, instead of taking her leave, Mrs Bennet began to comment upon the pleasing aspect of the room, expressing the opinion that she was sure Mr Bingley would want to stay in the country forever. Mr Bingley happily assured her that he would, before being accosted by Lydia Bennet, asking for the renewal of his promise to give a ball at Netherfield.

"I am perfectly eager to keep my promise. And when your sister had recovered, you will name the day of the ball."

Mrs Bennet's over enthusiastic reply at receiving such an answer, was almost too much for Lizzy to endure, but fortunately her mother departed soon afterwards. She also instantly quitted the room to return to her sister. Darcy followed a few minutes later to escape Caroline's opinions on the characters of the Bennets, which were quick in their coming.

Jane was well enough to join her sister downstairs that evening and for while Caroline and Louisa continued in their duplicity of liking her until the gentlemen entered the room.

Miss Bennet was no longer the centre of attention for them, Caroline was only concerned with engaging her husband's attention and Louisa began to play with the many adornments that she was wearing, while listening to her sister's scheming.

Upon entering Darcy walked to Jane, offered his sincerest congratulations on her health, before turning to a sofa near Elizabeth with the intention of reading and, when he could, talk to the lady sitting next to him for the rest of the evening.

Mr Bingley instantly seated himself by Jane, attending to her every need, re-stoking the fire, arranging cushions and refreshments as was necessary. Elizabeth could not help but smile at such a scene and it caught Darcy's attention instantly. Carefully he moved nearer to her and remarked softly, "I see you are of my opinion then."

"And what opinion would that be, sir?"

"that Charles and your sister are made for each other," he replied, gambling that his suspicions were correct.

"You think that?" Elizabeth asked, and seeing his slight nod of agreement added, "his sisters do not seem to."

"That is only because they wish Charles to marry my own sister, a thing which I entirely disagree with."

"Why do you disagree with it? Is Mr Bingley not suitable enough?"

"Not at all, my sister is a great deal too young. Besides I wish Charles to have more happiness in marriage than I and he will only be that, if he is in love."

"And do you think that he is?"

"I think that if he is not already, then he soon will be."

Elizabeth smiled, glad that her wish was confirmed and that Darcy approved of it.

Meanwhile Caroline had seen them talking and her suspicions were instantly aroused. Acting quickly she stood up and expressed the following; "Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example and take a turn about the room, it is so refreshing."

Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it nonetheless, having no wish to create or encourage whatever ulterior motives Caroline had in her mind. As for Darcy he had returned to his book upon the instance of Caroline's appearance, but on her request could not help but put it back down again and turn to watch them. He was awake to the novelty of the attention as much as Elizabeth was and he began to wonder if Caroline suspected anything or if she was merely jealous that he was giving no attention to her.

Upon observing her husband's interest Caroline immediately caught the attention of everyone in the room by inviting Darcy to join her and Elizabeth.

Darcy declined and upon his wife's insistence to know the reason why, he answered with the following; "you either chose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other's confidence and have secrets to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking;- if the first, I should be completely in your way;- and if the second, I can admire you better if I remain in my present position."

"Shocking reply! Shall we punish him, Miss Eliza?"

"Nothing so easy," Elizabeth replied with a smile, "but you must decide the details though, as you know him the best."

"Upon my honour I do not," Caroline replied. "My intimacy with him has never taught me anything of that."

At this revelation everyone turned to look at her in surprise. The depth of the attention cause Caroline much embarrassment and enabled Elizabeth to return to her seat as Louisa Hurst tried to distract it by opening the pianoforte.

The events of the last evening were much talked of the next morning between Jane and Elizabeth while they were in the former's room. Jane was most curious by Lizzy's apparent familiarity with Mr Darcy. Her sister tried to deflect the interest by saying, "it is only because of a mutual interest that we were talking, Jane."

"And what interest is that?"

"The affections of two people close to us." And with this Lizzy looked at her sister. Jane did not escape her meaning and blushed instantly. "Oh, Lizzy, I do not believe that I have ever felt this happy. He has already engaged me for the first two dances at the ball."

"Has he now? This is good news indeed." And thus with her sister's attention employed elsewhere, Elizabeth was able to relax.

By the time breakfast dawned it was determined between the Bennet sisters that they should trespass on Mr Bingley's kindness no longer. They knew if they sent word to home that their wishes would be refused, so they decided to apply for Mr Bingley's carriage instead.

Mr Bingley was also reluctant to have them depart but was comforted by the fact that he could soon see Jane again at the forthcoming ball. The departure was fixed for the late afternoon of that day.

As for the members of the house Elizabeth and Jane's departure was looked upon with relief by all, except Mr Darcy who, unlike Bingley knew he would not be so lucky as to secure his heart's desire for the first two dances of the ball. As it was he only managed to have a half hour alone with her before they left.

In that half hour not much could be discussed, for an express came for Mr Darcy to read just as he was about to open his mouth. Thanking the servant he took it in his hands and began to read it at once. Instantly his face became clouded.

"What's the matter?" Elizabeth asked, seeing the concern etched upon his face.

"Someone who I had wished never to meet with again has joined the Militia here, so my cousin tells me." Darcy folded the letter as this was said and took a deep breath to calm the angry storm that was circling his mind. "I feel I must warn you, Lizzy, of this gentlemen's character. He is not a man to be trusted. He used my family most abominably ill and caused much injury to both myself and my sister." Lowering his voice he leaned forward and explained the whole of the dark history. By the time this tale was over it was time for Elizabeth to depart with her sister.

Elizabeth made sure however to both thank and assure him of her secrecy. She was gratified that he cared enough about her to entrust her with this information and privately wondered if Caroline had that same privilege.

They returned to a warm welcome from their father, who had had no rest or any intelligent conversation since their departure, and a rather cold one from their dear Mama, who immediately expressed her disappointment at Jane taking advantage of Mr Bingley's kindness. However Mrs Bennet soon comforted herself when Jane revealed that Mr Bingley had engaged her for the first two dances at the Netherfield ball.

It is to be supposed that life at Longbourn would now return to normal until the ball, but it was not to be, for Mr Bennet had received a letter from his cousin, a Mr Collins, who, as the heir to the Longbourn estate, could not be refused a visit.

Mr Collins was also not a man to be avoided, even though almost all the Bennet sisters had formed an instant dislike to him upon his arrival. He was of a nature that was most anxious to please and praise everyone while ensuring that his views were expressed most cordially, yet in a most patronising, condescending way. His manners caused to disgust and amusement to all but two of the Bennet family. Mr Bennet particularly found his cousin to be ridiculous and sought to indulge himself in the amusement as often as he possibly could.

By the second day of his arrival it was discovered with great joy by Mrs Bennet that Mr Collins had come to Longbourn with the intention of marrying one of his fair cousins. Jane could not be had, although Mr Collins had immediately picked her upon his arrival, and on Mrs Bennet's good advice he transferred his attentions to the next in line; Elizabeth.

The first evidence of this marked attention was discovered later that day when Mr Collins joined the Bennet girls on a walk into Meryton, which had been formed, as far as Lydia and Kitty were concerned, with the intense purpose to see if the officer of their present entrapment, Mr Denny, had returned for town. Mr Collins instantly captured Elizabeth by asking to walk beside her into town, which was accepted by her mother before the lady herself could object.

The walk was not long and once in Meryton, Elizabeth drifted quickly to Jane's side, leaving Mr Collins in the middle of a sentence to which Mary Bennet responded to kindly.

Lydia meanwhile had spotted the officer she was after and much to the embarrassment of her sisters shouted for him to come over.

And over he came, bringing a civilian friend, who was instantly introduced as a Mr Wickham, returned from town to join the Militia.

As he was a handsome gentleman with the added bonus of soon to be wearing a red coat, the youngest Bennet girls took a liking to him instantly. His features were declared to be pleasing, his manners impeccably charming, and he was well on his way to charming all of the Bennets; that is all but one.

Elizabeth had wondered the moment that she met him if she would have liked him, had she not already known his true character. With this revelation in mind she saw the duplicity that she might have missed, if not for the disclosure of a friend. It was well hidden, behind the easy affability which he carried well, almost too well, and that Elizabeth realised, was the mistake. Too good to be true, as the saying went.

The sound of horses made her look up and smile as Mr Bingley came into view. He stopped his horse, dismounted, and went to greet his angel. His friend who had arrived just behind him met Elizabeth's gaze before catching Wickam's presence. He inclined his head in a slight nod of greeting, unable to escape a feeling of satisfaction as Wickham paled considerably under the gaze. He then rode on, without looking back.

Chapter IV.

The Bennets spent the evening as planned at Mrs Bennet's brother and sisters, the Philips, who lived in Meryton not too far from the attorney offices, where Mr Philips worked. The party was not all family, it also included the officers and the ever present Mr Collins, whose mission it was to spend the entire evening beside his fair cousin's side. Mrs Philips however was able to persuade him away to a game of whist, much to the relief of her second niece.

As Jane was prevailed upon to join Lydia and Kitty, Elizabeth was left to enjoy some solitude, albeit of a brief nature, for no sooner than had she sat down that Mr Wickham joined her. He greeted her with every possible civility, confessing that he had thought he would never be able to escape her younger sisters. Elizabeth replied to the comment with a smile and a mild agreement before he turned the conversation to Mr Bingley and then Mr Darcy.

"Tell me, have you known Mr Darcy long?"

When Elizabeth replied in the negative, he announced that he had known him all of his life. Elizabeth pretended to be surprised. "Oh but...." Lets see what you intend to tell me, Mr Wickham.

"Yes you're surprised. No doubt you noticed the cold manner of our greeting," Mr Wickham began, taking the bait. "His father, Miss Bennet, was one of the best men that ever breathed. He raised me and paid for my education, intending me for the church. And it was my dearest wish to enter that profession. But it was not to be."

I'm not surprised, Elizabeth thought, after all I have heard. "Oh," she exclaimed, hoping her tones sounded compassionate enough.

"When the late Mr Darcy died, he left a promise in his will that I was to be given a living as soon as one became available. When one did, the son refused point blank to honour his father's promises."

Only because he had already given you three thousand pounds as you had expressed no desire for the church. Instead of saying this out loud however, Elizabeth replied with, "this is quite shocking! I had not thought Mr Darcy to be as bad as this. He deserves to be publicly disgraced for what he has do to you."

"Someday he will be, but not by me. Until I can forget his father I can never expose him."

Of course not, which is why you almost eloped with his sister and why you're telling me all this after only one day of acquaintance. Elizabeth paused and then carefully asked what Miss Darcy was like. She saw Wickham hesitate but it was only for a fleeting moment and almost indiscernible.

"I wish I could call her amiable," he began, "as a child she was affectionate and pleasing, and I devoted hours to her amusement. But she has grown too much like her brother. I never see her now. Since her father's death her home has been in London."

It was here that the conversation ended and Elizabeth was left to reflect on what she had heard. If she had not known the truth she realised, she would have believed his story. For certainly it was plausible and parts of it had actually occurred, but Wickham had been far too eager to tell her and his beginning of it almost spoke of falsehood. If he had not encountered Mr Darcy in Meryton would he had told her the story, she asked herself and received a negative in reply. No, Mr Wickham, you will not deceive me. I know who Mr Darcy is and I put trust in him before trust in you any day.

The next day brought Mr Bingley to Longbourn with a personal invitation to the Netherfield ball whose date had now been determined upon as the 26th of November. He stayed awhile and was most civilly attended to by Mrs Bennet who made every attempt to get her eldest daughter alone with the man, but it was not to be gainsaid and Mr Bingley left without the wish being accomplished, much to Mrs Bennet's disappointment. However, this disappointment could not last long, for there was a ball to prepare for and Mrs Bennet wanted her daughters to look their best for she was determined to have at least two proposals fixed upon by the end of the event.

The news of the ball soon made it's way around the neighbourhood, and it was revealed that everyone of note had been invited, along with an general invitation to the officers, causing great joy, in more than one quarter.

As far as Elizabeth was concerned the ball was, from the first moment, to be looked on with slow, increasing dread. She had been unwise enough to tease Mr Collins about whether he needed his bishop's approval to go, only receive a request to dance the first two dances with him, which caused considerable disappointment. It also caused her to realise that she could not dance with Mr Darcy that evening, unless she wanted to arouse suspicion in everyone.

Added to this was the fact that as Jane would be occupied with Mr Bingley, the only person she could talk to was Charlotte and where Elizabeth was, Mr Collins was sure to follow. She had made it a point to avoid him whenever possible, but it getting difficult and she had often been forced to endure him for many an hour, without any chance to escape. And at the ball, no one would be to able to rescue her.

She also had another mission to deal with at the ball. That was to find an opportunity to speak to Mr Darcy alone. She had decided that now was the time to stop the affair, while she still had the strength to do it. She knew that unless the fates were kind, she could never have public happiness with him and until she broke with him, she would feel unable to find some one else. Nothing was to become of their relationship, so what was the point of continuing it any longer?

The following Tuesday evening signalled the Netherfield ball. It was an event that could disappoint no one, not even after it was found that Mr Wickham could not attend, due to prior commitments in town, although his colleagues were all of the opinion that it was the presence of Mr Darcy which had driven Wickham away, making it evident that his tale of supposed wrongs had spread farther, and that rather than keeping his promise of concealment Wickham was taking every opportunity to disgrace the son of the father he supposedly held all he had learnt to.

Kitty and Lydia were most disappointed to not have the pleasure of dancing with Wickham, but the ever growing cluster of red coats that sought their hands was soon to ease that sorrow. As for Elizabeth it was one less person she had to deal with.

After hearing of Wickham's absence she went over to Charlotte. The two friends had not seen each other for a week and Elizabeth was able to discuss Mr Collins idiosyncrasies without any danger of being overheard until the music of the orchestra asked her to dance with him.

Those two dance were completely mortifying for Elizabeth as she was forced to endure Mr Collins apologies for the many wrong moves that he made, instead of attending to the dances so as to avoid the mistakes in the first place. When Elizabeth escaped it was with pure relief that she did so. She returned to her friend intending to talk for the rest of the evening, but scarcely had she begun, when Mr Darcy appeared by her side, requesting the honour of her hand for the next. She glanced over at the guest and located Caroline in a position unable to observe any of the dances. Silently she consented. Just one last dance, she thought to herself.

At first the were silent while dancing, for the presence of Elizabeth's family observing them, prevented them from talking with any degree of intimacy. However when this silence began to look permanent and Elizabeth was about to reluctantly begin her question, they passed the final member of her family and Mr Darcy asked, "Did you see him?"

"Yes I did, you saw that I did."

"What I meant was, did you talk with him?"


"And what was your impression of him?"

"That I could have been deceived by him, if I did not know you as I do."

Darcy would have followed this remark with another question but the landed next to Bingley and Jane, -who had been dancing every dance so far- so the conversation was delayed. When that danger was passed he began again, only to be stopped as Sir William Lucas, who had been waiting for them to come near him, cut in with, "I congratulate you, sir. Such superior dancing is really to be seen and your fair partner is well matched. I hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain event (here he glanced at Bingley and Jane) takes place. What congratulations will then flow in!"

They would have heard more of Sir William's enthusiasms had it not been for the thankful intrusion of the dance moves. Darcy's question was forgotten and they continued to be silent until the dance was over.

Darcy escorted Elizabeth to her friend and Elizabeth was about to ask him for a moment alone, but Caroline accosted them, pulling her husband away, the request left unsaid.

"I must have your support, sir!" She began as they moved to stand beside Mrs Hurst.

"In what, madam?"

"In persuading our brother to return to London."

"For what reason?"

"Do you not see the reason for yourself? You were right next to them!"

"If you mean to separate Miss Bennet from Charles, Caroline, you shall have no help
of mine."

"Why ever not?"

"Because I wish Charles to be happy."

"As do I!"

"Only with someone of wealth of course."

"Well, naturally! People of society's highest do not marry below their station."

"Madam, do not forget your past. Your father built his fortune on trade."

"That is of little consequence. It is Charles duty to advance the family."

"Charles has no duty of the kind. Now, madam, please cease this topic. You shall not gain my support, not now or in future."


"Enough!" And with that Darcy walked away from her. Caroline uttered an exasperated cry, as she had hoped to count on her husband's support, but it was not to be. Were they to agree on nothing? She decided to stop trying to save the marriage. If Darcy chooses to have an affair, then I shall as well.

For Elizabeth the evening was turning from bad to worse. For no sooner than Darcy had left her, than Mr Collins appeared once more. He was most exited and this was why.

"I have discovered that there is a close relation to my patroness, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, living here. I must have the pleasure of informing him of his Aunt's health."

Charlotte asked Mr Collins to name the gentleman but Elizabeth already knew who it was. Her worst fears were confirmed. "You do not intend to introduce yourself to Mr Darcy?"

"I do indeed. I am sure he will be most gratified for my information." And with that Mr Collins departed, leaving Elizabeth objections unspoken as she watched with increasing shame and embarrassment at having such a cousin, as Mr Darcy was accosted by him.

Darcy himself was of the opinion that he had jumped from the hot hearth into the fiery flames as Mr Collins introduced himself. He had heard his Aunt had gained a new curate, but he had not expected him to be here of all places. He had barely managed to be civil to the man and parted from him as soon as he could. Mr Collins however, only saw the graciousness, never the reality of the situation and returned to Elizabeth only to find her gone and Miss Lucas engaging him in conversation.

Elizabeth was with her sister, whose evening had passed far more agreeably. She had spent the chief of it with Mr Bingley, and the two were fast becoming inseparable. In fact Jane only had time to relay her feelings of happiness to Elizabeth before Mr Bingley joined her once more.

For then on it seemed to Elizabeth that she was to have no peace or dignity for the rest of the family had seem to have made it their mission to disgrace themselves one by one. First there was her sister Mary who leapt at the chance of showing off her piano skills when Mr Bingley made the fatal mistake of suggesting that they had some music.

Her performance seemed to Elizabeth, if anything, to be worse than the last social occasion she had played at and the whole time it took to the play just the first song was absolute torture. Elizabeth appealed to her father who, catching her look, obliged by making things worse, as he informed Mary and by default most of the guests to leave time to let the other young ladies exhibit. Mary retired much subdued.

Mr Collins then decided to take up what would seem later as an almost familial quest to shame themselves, by launching into a long lecture on the merits of musical talent, broken only by the intrusion of Mrs Hurst with an obvious upstaging performance.

Mrs Bennet was the next. She began by singing the praises of Mr Collins and became, in retrospect, a welcome warning to her daughter, when she went on to mention who of the family Mr Collins planned on marrying. It was told directly to Lady Lucas but consisted of such a volume as to let the entire room know of her intentions concerning her children.

It was enough to make Elizabeth wish she was miles away and this desire was increased when Lydia became the closing act of the La Morte d-Bennet play, by stealing an officers curved sabre to carry out a running pursuit into the dining room where she collapsed in the nearest chair, declaring to the whole room that she was "so fagged". All in all, it was considered to be the most embarrassing night of Elizabeth's life.

Chapter V.

Despite all its horrors the Netherfield ball did produce much happiness for Mrs Bennet, for her wish of having two proposals after the event was granted, even if their results differed considerably to her expectations.

Yes, declarations were to be made and Mr Collins was the first to decide upon such a life altering decision. He resolved, as his leave was to last 'til the following Saturday, to begin it as soon as possible and nothing, not even his fair cousin's reluctance to be alone with him, would sway him from the plan.

To certify it he sought the help of her mother, requesting the following, "may I hope, madam, for your interest and support with your fair daughter Elizabeth, when I solicit for the honour of a private audience with her in the course of this morning?"

Mrs Bennet most happy that her wishes were becoming reality, was all too eager to help him in his course. The declaration itself however, was to be beset by problems from the start.

As Elizabeth had been warned of Mr Collins intentions the night before, she managed to elude the gentleman until after breakfast when matters were taken out of her hands.

The family had all retired to the drawing room after the aforesaid meal where Mr Collins had just intended to make his intentions public when a visitor was suddenly announced, causing surprise to all, bar Mr Bennet, who had departed for his study the minute breakfast was over.

The visitor was none other than Mr Bingley and he was to prove to be, however unintentionally, a helper to Mr Collins' cause. The gentlemen's own intentions were in no way connected to Mr Collins, but this that gentleman was sure to overlook.

Mr Bingley sat with the other occupants of the drawing room for a full minute before Mrs Bennet began to provide her support. After inquiring as to the health of all the Netherfield family and receiving positive responses in return, she began to wink at the daughter nearest to her, in a vain effort to decrease the population of the room.

This happened to be Mary, whose book was occupying so much of her attention as for her mother's request to go unnoticed. Lydia was similarly engaged, although with the embellishment of a bonnet and so it was left to Elizabeth and Kitty to be appealed to. Elizabeth ignored her, so it was to the latter who finally, much to her mother's mortification, asked Mrs Bennet, "what is it, Mama? Why are you winking at me? What am I to do?"

"Wink at you?! Why on earth would I be winking at you my dear?" Her mother paused to put more belief in her vehement denial. "But now that you ask, it puts me in mind, I do have something I would speak to you about." Mrs Bennet stood up and commanded her youngest three daughters to come with her, along with Mr Collins, much to Elizabeth's relief.

Barely a minute after their departure did the door open again, only this time it was the housekeeper, Mrs Hill. "Miss Elizabeth," she began, fully aware of the feelings the lady in question would now be experiencing, "you're wanted in the parlour."

Elizabeth reluctantly got up and obeyed the summons only to find that instead of her mother as she had expected, Mr Collins was waiting for her arrival. Unable to escape she was only to sit down and endure the speech. Her suitor began without delay.

"Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far from doing you any disservice, rather adds to your perfection's. You would have less amiable in my eyes had there not been this little unwillingness; but allow me to assure you that I have your mother's permission for this address. You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse, how ever your natural delicacy may lead you to dissemble; my attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as soon as I had entered the house I signalled you out as the companion of my future life. But before I am run away by my feelings on the subject, perhaps it will be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying."

The very idea of Mr Collins been run away with his feelings, with all his solemn composure was enough to set Elizabeth so near laughing that the short pause which Mr Collins took to collect breath, was insufficient to allow her to stop him any further by releasing that amusement.

"My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add greatly to my happiness and thirdly, which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of my noble patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh."Mr Collins," she said, "you must marry. Choose properly, choose a gentlewoman for my sake and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up too high. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to Hunsford and I, will visit her."

"And I am sure that your wit and, vivacity, I think must be acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence and respect which her rank will inevitably excite. Thus for my general intentions in favour of matrimony, so much as to my individual choice. Being as I am, Miss Elizabeth, to inherit all of this estate after the death of your father I could not satisfy myself, without choosing a wife from among his daughters. And now," he remarked, finally coming to his point as he sank down to his knees in front of her, "nothing remains but to assure you in the most animated of language the violence of my affections."

It was at this point that Elizabeth felt it prudent to stop him, so "Mr Collins," she began with, but it was to no avail for he carried on.

"To fortune I am perfectly indifferent. I am well aware that one thousand pounds in the four percents is all which you may ever be entitled to, but I will never reproach on that subject when we are married!"

It was entirely necessary to interrupt him now, before he rushed off to inform her family of her acceptance. "You are too hasty, sir," she began. "You forget that I have made no answer, let me do so now. I am fully aware of the compliment you have given me and I am very sensible as to the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to accept them." With this said, Elizabeth sat back and waited for the disappointment. It never came.

"I am not disheartened by this, indeed not. I am fully aware that it is customary for ladies to reject the addresses of the man they secretly mean to accept when he first applies for their favour and therefore, my dear Miss Elizabeth, I hope to lead you to the altar before long!"

At this point his closeness to her was impossible to bare any longer and Elizabeth got up from her chair to distance herself from him as she continued in her refusals. "Upon my word, sir, your hope is an extraordinary one in view of my declaration. I am perfectly serious in my refusals, my feelings forbid it in every respect. You could not make me happy and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who could make you as such. Let me assure you I have no pretensions as to the sort of woman you have described, whose supposed elegance which consists of tormenting a respectable man. Can I speak plainer?"

Elizabeth had hoped to put him off by her second speech, but Mr Collins was not to dissuaded. "You are uniformly charming!" He cried and Elizabeth quickly exited through the nearest door, with Mr Collins trailing in her wake, still of the opinion that once her parents had spoken to her his intentions would have no danger of refusal.

Elizabeth escaped down the corridor before stopping for breath. She leaned against the wall, calming herself by taking deep breaths. Her feelings were in absolute turmoil. That Mr Collins was so determined in his pursuit was impossible to deny, and Elizabeth knew that she could only depend upon her father to rescue her from the situation which her mother had forced her into.

However, until her father learned of the event, it was useless to dwell on it, so she steadied herself to face others before reaching for the doorknob to the drawing room.

As she entered the drawing room she was struck by the most remarkable and romantic sight. Jane was standing with Mr Bingley by the fireplace, and their figures were in such a position as to determine only one thing. Upon her entrance the spell was instantly broken and despite her apology and preparation to exit once more, the moment was gone forever.

"No, don't go, Lizzy," her sister cried. Mr Bingley leant forward and whispered something in Jane's ear, before departing from them, bowing to Elizabeth on his way.

Elizabeth watched him depart and then turned to face her sister with a smile. "Well?" she asked, half knowing the answer already.

"Oh Lizzy!" Her sister replied, rushing forward to embrace Elizabeth, her happiness over flowing. "I am so happy! It is too much, it is too much. Oh, why cannot everyone be as happy as I am! He loves me, Lizzy, he loves me!"

"Of course he does!"

"He told me it was from the moment he laid eyes on me! Oh Lizzy, it is almost too good to be true! Oh, I must tell my mother, he has gone to my father already. Oh Lizzy, could ye believe things could happen so quickly?"

"I could and I do, where you are concerned. You capture everyone, Jane."

It was then that Jane noticed Elizabeth's state. "What is it Lizzy? You do not look completely happy, indeed you do not. What is it that troubles you?"

"Oh it is nothing, at least not yet. And I would not wish to destroy any part of your happiness. Go, go to Mama and tell her the news, I shall be fine presently."

Jane would not be persuaded. She had seen through the camouflage and would not move until her sister had told her everything. They sat down together and Jane commanded her sister to relay everything. As she told, Elizabeth's turmoil of emotions eventually focused on the ridiculous nature of the proposal and the two laughed together as she described the antics and mannerisms, before Jane remarked, "poor Mr Collins, though. To be so determined, yet so clearly set for sadness."

"Yes, poor Mr Collins," Elizabeth agreed. "But consider, Jane, he has no one else to blame but himself for hoping too much. As soon as he arrived he fixed himself on you then when he heard of Bingley, he went on to me. If I had been matched by Mama also, it would have been Mary next. The only one who actually cares about him. Now," she began, smiling once more, "you have made another one as happy as you. Go to Mama and tell her your news. It will delay her finding me for a little while longer."

Jane obeyed her and departed at once. Upon this exit Elizabeth sat down, her emotions mixed once more. Happiness for Jane, concern for herself, once Mr Collins' refusal was made known to the world. She knew what would be presumed by the Meryton society. She would be seen as mercenary, that she had refused her cousin in order to gain a higher match, now more possible, because of her sister's engagement. She shook the thoughts away, preparing herself to cross that bridge when she came to it. Jane was happy, that was all to concern herself with at present.

Elizabeth was not the only one happy about the engagement. Mr Bingley's oldest friend and brother in law also rejoiced at the news, when he received it at the evening of that day. He had expected Bingley to come back happy, knowing full well the purpose of his visit when he departed that morning before any one else was up to prevent him.

Caroline and Louisa were not rejoicing at their brother's fortune. They looked upon it as a great disappointment and nothing could dissuade them from that opinion. They had only begun in their warning speech to their brother the night before about the evils of such a match, when to their surprised, he had resisted them wholeheartedly. For the first time they had encountered a stubborn brother and if it had not been for Darcy's alliance in favour of the marriage, the sisters would have not given up in their persistence.

Aside from these two, everyone else rejoiced in the match, once it was made known. It had been expected by everyone and they would have all been completely grieved if it had not turned out as well as it had. Mr Bennet gave them his blessing, remarking that their generous nature and willingness to please would cause their servants to cheat them and for them to always exceed their income, much to Mrs Bennet's annoyance. And as for that lady herself, she could not be more happy that a daughter had engaged so fortunately.

However, she was not happy about her second daughter. It was not long after she had heard Jane's news that she had learnt of Mr Collins' refusal. Immediately she sought out her second daughter and commanded her to accept her cousin, but Elizabeth was impervious to her mother's moans. Eventually Mrs Bennet appealed to her husband, expecting to achieve success that way.

This also did not turn her way, for Mr Bennet's only remark on the matter was that as her mother had vowed never to see her again if she did not marry Mr Collins, it was only fair he should vow never to see his daughter if she did marry him. Knowing where Elizabeth's loyalties lay, Mrs Bennet reluctantly surrendered, hoping that Mr Collins would be prepared to try another, more willing daughter of hers.

Mr Collins though was not to be swayed to any compromise. He planned to leave Longbourn in fact, and return to Lady Catherine at once, resigned as he was to having no other than Elizabeth. So determined was he to leave that he caught Mrs Bennet unawares when he revealed his intentions.

It was at this time that Charlotte came over to see her friend, hearing from Lydia at the archway entrance the events she had missed in the Bennet household so far. Upon hearing that Mr Collins was due to leave she formed the desperate resolution; to transfer completely Mr Collins intentions concerning her friend to some one else. She offered for him to dine at Lucas Lodge that evening, an offer which was gratefully accepted, providing peace to all, barring Mrs Bennet's occasional comments to her second daughter.

For the next few days between social engagements to Netherfield, Charlotte undertook the burden of engaging Mr Collins attentions, much to Elizabeth's gratification whose initial disgust at such an alliance had turned first into laughter and then guilt for disappointing his hopes. It never occurred to her at all that her friend might have ulterior motives in spiriting Mr Collins away whenever she could.

To Charlotte's surprise and happiness, her mission in transferring Mr Collins' affections from her friend to herself, succeeded quickly, despite her fears that his upcoming departure would forestall any thoughts of matrimony. Her encouragement was enough to secure Mr Collins' instant favour and Wednesday it steeled him enough to creep out of Longbourn in the early hours and to Lucas Lodge to lay himself at the feet of his heart's desire. She chanced to spy his arrival from an upstairs window and quickly arranged to meet him by chance outside, so their was no danger of his intentions being public. Little was she to realise what eloquence and happiness at her acceptance was to greet her.

Chapter VI.

"Charlotte! Engaged to Mr Collins!?! Impossible!" Was Elizabeth's first reaction when confronted by the news.

"Why do you say that?" Her lover asked her.

It was a day after the last mentioned events. Elizabeth and Jane were at Netherfield, the former as a chaperone, the latter to see her intended. As Bingley and Jane had taken a tour of the house, Darcy and Elizabeth had drifted outside, where he had relayed to her the news he had heard yesterday afternoon, when Sir William Lucas 'happened' to be passing the estate.

"Because I have known Charlotte all my life. I thought her far too sensible to accept such a man."

"She is sensible," Darcy agreed, "however she is also realistic."

"Realistic? Fitzwilliam, please explain what that has to do with anything."

"Consider, my darling, the realities of your friend's situation. She is the eldest of a large family, with very little money, and, what, five and twenty?"

"Seven and twenty."

"And still unmarried. And in a small neighbourhood, which is unlikely to offer a chance like this again."

"But Mr Collins!" Elizabeth uttered in exasperation before, reluctantly agreeing with him. "You are right I suppose. It is a good match for her. And with Mr Collins to inherit Longbourn, in the long term, it does have some bonus. But it is still a shock."

"It is. And I agree with you that Miss Lucas deserves better."

"You do?"

"She's good looking, intelligent sensible and has a sense of humour."

"Careful, you're making me jealous."

"Oh, I would not do that for the world," Darcy vowed, putting his arm around her. Elizabeth leaned back in pure contentment. She would miss days like this, she realised. Days so perfect that they could forget the realities of theirs lives and just enjoy each others company. Elizabeth wished that every day was like this and suddenly she knew that she could never end this relationship, for it had gone too far already. She had fallen in love with him. Hopelessly, utterly, inrarevebly in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy.

"Why should you be surprised, Lizzy? Do you think it incredible that Mr Collins should be unable to procure any woman's good opinion, because he was not so happy as to succeed with you?"

It was the late morning of the next day and Elizabeth was spending it with her best friend as she was soon to loose her.

"I was surprised," Elizabeth now confessed. "But Charlotte, if Mr Collins has been fortunate enough to secure you affections, then I'm delighted for you both."

"I see what you're feeling," replied Charlotte, "I'm not romantic, Lizzy. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home. And considering Mr Collins' character, connections and station in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast of entering the marriage state."

Elizabeth smiled and admitted to herself once more that Charlotte and Mr Darcy were right. Charlotte had never been a romantic, compared to her. She was the practical, Elizabeth the passionate. This even, she realised sadly, was to set their relationship at a distance and prevent confidences about marriage and love from being exchanged ever again. Charlotte was never as close to her as Jane was and now that both were about to be gone forever, Elizabeth knew which one she would see the more.

As soon as it was made know to the world the match was looked upon with mixed feelings. The Lucases rejoiced at having Charlotte married at last,. while her siblings foresaw their coming out a few years earlier than previously planned.

The Bennets were divided upon the matter. Lydia and Kitty laughed at it, imagining readings of Fordyce's sermons before they went to bed. Mary never expressed her opinion, neither in blessing or disgust. Jane felt the same as Elizabeth. Mrs Bennet was another matter. She refused to hear Charlotte's name ever spoken again and rebuked her daughter all the more for refusing Mr Collins, for she should have accepted him to keep Longbourn in the family. Jane's upcoming nuptials were the only thing which prevented a full scale onslaught.

The wedding between Jane and Mr Bingley was set to be on March 12th. Elizabeth was to be maid of honour, Darcy to be groomsman.

Caroline and Louisa were not to be there. They departed two days after the ball, determined to keep away forever. In the case of Louisa it was only to support her sister, for Caroline had decided to stop saving her marriage altogether. Over the past few days he had avoided her completely and she was tired of the constant inattention. It was time for her to gain the attention once more and a dramatic action was the only avenue of revenge left open.

Indeed she took Darcy completely by surprised, but if anything, her absence was a welcome relief to him, for it gave him more time to spend with Elizabeth, who was becoming more and more important to him as the days went by. He was certain now that he was to start divorce proceedings in the hope that Elizabeth cared enough about him to accept an offer.

His uncle the Earl of ________ was ready to support him, although Darcy had chosen not to inform him of the real reason why he wanted it, and the only obstacle he could foresee now was his aunt's view, which was why after his friend's wedding he was to travel to Kent to see her and tell her the news. Hopefully she might restrain herself by thoughts of the matches which would now be possible.

As to his present situation he found no reason to tell Elizabeth any of it, until matters were definite in their determination. He could not deny a certain fear in telling her of the events; fear of her feelings not being as deep as his was, fear that she would turn him down if he were to offer what he was contemplating offering.

However, he knew that no matter what she felt, he wanted his marriage to Caroline to be over. She was damaging him, damaging his sister and he loved her no longer. He had never loved her really. The wedding had been an impulse, an act he would have done anything to go back and undo, if he could. This divorce had been inevitable.

He needed love in his life, not just lessons in how to avoid the next argument or survive the next day. He had seen the love-full marriage of his parents and realised now that he wanted the same and that nothing, not even the shame a divorce would bring was going to prevent that.

Elizabeth was also having difficulty in coming to terms with the revelation she had just dealt herself. She was in love with a married man. The first thing that came into her head was to wonder as to why she was, and, more importantly, why she had been so blind as to not notice it before. Certainly she was used to the feelings she was experiencing, as it had taken her a long while to discern them from the others she had felt in his company before. Indeed, her feelings were fully clear to her now.

She longed for his company, worshipped his closeness, his touch, his kiss.......... her eyes closed as memories of such occasions flowed over her. Briefly she indulged in them, before brushing them aside to dwell on the realities and impossibilities of the relationship she never wanted to loose; however inevitable the ultimate outcome. Of the former of her thoughts she was fully aware; she had been reviewing them in her mind for months, ever since their last evening at Kympton.

"I would never expect you to feel obligated to fulfil my desires....... you are single in all respects," those were his words. What had he meant by them? It was a question which had bothered her ever since she had heard them, that first evening at Meryton, some months after their last indulgence. There were two ways only that she could think of to take his meaning as. One, that it was a truly expressed wish for her to be an equal in their affair, a clear sign that he saw her as something more than a mistress.

Two was the fear that constantly tugged at her heart; that he was tired of her and wished most kindly to rid himself of her. The former had be indulged in too much recently, so much so as to cloud her objectivity. She had to consider the extreme possibility of the latter, if only to give her the strength to break away, a move which she had to accomplish soon, in order to prevent further scarring of her heart. However much she wished to continue the affair, she could not, for fear of never finding someone else to marry. She had sworn to herself once to never marry but for the deepest love and to let that feeling go to a man whom she had no chance of uniting with, would defeat her vow.

So end it she should and must, as quickly and carefully as it could.

After one week spent chiefly in his fiancee's company, Mr Collins reluctantly departed for Kent as his leave was now at an end. However he avowed constantly to return as soon as he could.

Two days later brought more guests of an agreeable nature to Longbourn, by the arrival of the Gardiners, brother to Mrs Bennet. They had come to spend Christmas at Meryton and to greet their niece's intended before the March wedding.

Mrs Gardiner was several years younger than Mrs Philips and Mrs Bennet, and as a result of which, she was much closer to her two eldest nieces and kept regular correspondence with them. She was particularly close to Elizabeth and the two spent the chief of the day exchanging news until the arrival of Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy.

Their arrival was greatly anticipated by the Gardiners for Mrs Gardiner had been born and raised not five miles from the Darcy estate; Pemberley. She had met him but briefly before at the ball, where, like her niece, she quickly determined the state of affairs between Mr and Mrs Darcy and most pleased to not see the latter this time.

Elizabeth made the introduction and Darcy instantly entered into conversation with Mrs Gardiner and many recollections of Derbyshire ensued, particularly of chestnut tree that adorned the green by Lambton's smithy. It pleased her to see her lover at ease with more of her family. Her only hope now was that if she ever found someone else, that he would display the same ease.

The Gardiners stayed no more than a week and their departure brought Mr Collins to Longbourn as his wedding dawned near. On the Thursday it was to be and the day before it the bride paid a visit to her friend in order to beg a favour of her.

"I shall depend upon hearing from you very often, Lizzy."

"That you certainly shall," Elizabeth replied, although privately she suspected the contents of the correspondence to be not as intimate as before. Charlotte was not marrying for love and Elizabeth's desire to do so and inability to properly accept her friend's choice, closed forever the bond that was once between them. Charlotte felt conduced to keep up the appearances of a happy marriage which would mean a certain restriction of information to a friend which she had once told everything. It was a sad occasion that both tried to not look on as such.

"I have another favour to asked. Will you come and see me?"

"We shall meet often I hope, in Hertfordshire."

"I am not likely to leave Kent for some time. Promise therefore to come to Hunsford."

Although she foresaw little pleasure in the visit, Elizabeth knew that some distance from Meryton would be necessary after her sister's wedding, for it was then that she planned to end the affair with Mr Darcy. Thus she was incapable of refusing.

"My father and Maria are to return with us after Jane's wedding," Charlotte began and then added in a voice that clearly struggled with maintaining composure, "and I hope you will consent to be one of the party for indeed you would be as welcome as either of them."

Elizabeth assured her that she would, knowing that she would not be good company though, especially if the break up went as badly as she imagined it to go. She had not yet considered Darcy's reaction to the end of the affair and her fears of carrying that end out deepened every time she did try to determine them. The distance and novelty of this forthcoming visit, would be enough she hoped to distract her thoughts and emotions until such a time when she could deal with them rationally.

The wedding day of Charlotte Lucas to William Collins came and quickly went, with no mishap on either side. The couple departed to Kent a day after and Elizabeth soon received correspondence from her friend. It's detail was as much as she had expected; for Charlotte would only write of events of which she could praise and so every one spoke of an eagerness and enthusiasm which Elizabeth knew she would not feel in her friend's place.

As for her own life Elizabeth spent her days with Jane to make up the time of friendship as they were soon to be parted. Despite the lack of distance, the intimacies of many talks would be a heavy loss and as a result those talks were increased, despite the often lack of subject.

One secret was still kept. Elizabeth never confided in Jane about her affair. It was not out of a fear of trust, only a fear that Jane would look at her sister differently for committing a clear society taboo. The revelation would also damage the degree of intimacy between them, in a way that a marriage never could. It saddened Elizabeth that she could tell no one of the one trouble she dearly needed advice on. However, as it was soon to be over there was no point dwelling on something that would soon disappear forever.

Chapter VII.

A week before the wedding of Bingley and Jane brought a visitor to Netherfield, and their arrival caused yet another dinner for the Bennets at Mr Bingley's home.

The visitor's identity was not announced until that very evening, causing much disappointment on Mrs Bennet's side, for she had supposed it to be another single gentleman caller that could prove a match for one of her four remaining daughters. However, this hope was to no avail for the visitor was single but not a gentleman.

Miss Georgiana Darcy was just sixteen yet carried a fortune of thirty thousand pounds to her name. She favoured the blond graceful beauty of Miss Jane Bennet and her manners were just as unassuming and gentle. She had come for two reasons; the first because her brother's oldest friend was getting married and the second, for a break from her studies in London at one of the finest music schools.

At first Mrs Bennet was concerned that Miss Darcy's arrival would cause possible suitors of her own daughters to flock away, but from the first evening this became none existent, for Miss Darcy, as their host quietly informed the Bennets, was not yet out and would remain under the guardianship of both her brother and her cousin for some years to come.

Georgianna's visit came as something of a relief to Darcy, who feared that his wife might have commanded her to stay at the London House indefinitely. However on matters where her brother was concerned, Georgiana was anything but indifferent. It had been her intention to travel to Netherfield ever since her sister in law had set up court in the London House once more. She privately hated her brother's wife whom thought it proper to lord it over her whenever she saw fit.

She was shown into the drawing room and her appearance caused her normally solemn brother to break into a smile before all as he almost leapt up from his seat to embrace her.

"Georgiana, I did not expect you til the morrow," he began in welcome greeting.

"Richard was called away rather urgently to his regiment," Miss Darcy replied, her eyes drifting from her brother's as she noticed the other people in the room.

Introductions were made an the conversations resumed once more. Elizabeth, noticing that Miss Darcy was only too willing to talk if a little shy, turned and addressed her with, "I understand you are fond of music and play very well."

"Not very well. But I am fond of music. I should dearly love to hear you play and sing, my brother has told me that he has rarely heard anything that gives him more pleasure."

"You shall, but I warn you your brother has grossly exaggerated my talents. I am nowhere near your sister even."

"Oh, no my brother never exaggerates, he always speaks the absolute truth, although sometimes he is a little too kind to me."

"An ideal elder brother then?"

"Oh yes."

"You make me feel quite envious, I have no brothers at all, only the sisters you see here."

"I should have liked to have a sister."

"Does not your brother's wife perform that task?"

"I.......I feel I must confess Miss Bennet that Caroline and I do not get on."

"If I may say so, Miss Darcy, your sister and I are not the best of friends either."

Mr Darcy glanced over at his sister ad Elizabeth and was gratified to see them getting on so well. Everything was going as well as he had hoped. He foresaw no problems whatsoever.

Over the next few days, despite Lizzy's intentions to have no further contact with the Darcys, her friendship with Georgiana grew and grew. She enjoyed her company very much and it gave her the distraction she needed before contemplating the best way to tell her lover he was no more, for the more she dwelt on Darcy, the more her courage failed her. She planned to find a quiet moment alone with him after the wedding, so he had no chance to talk her out of it. Not that she was expecting him to try to re-persuade her mind, but it was best to tell him then before he left than to delay any longer.

The day of Jane's wedding dawned as bright and as clear as Mrs Bennet could have wished. Indeed, that lady could not be more happy, in fact her enthusiasms were enough to drive not only her husband, but the rest of her daughters, including the placid bride, all mad, and they despaired at the apparent slowness of time before the ceremony when they would be mercifully spared from any further ramifications, for Mrs Bennet would talk of nothing else.

She was up as soon as sleep allowed her, spending the time until she had to dress in Jane's bedroom, where she offered her daughter any advice she deemed needed to be given. The advice was varied in the extreme and often of such a nature as to both frighten and bewilder Jane to such an extent as for Elizabeth to request Mrs Gardiner to have a private word with her.

She had visited Jane briefly after Mrs Bennet had exited to go to another of her daughters, and upon seeing her sister's state, instantly went to procure their aunt, whose advice that, although about the same subjects, would be of a much more pleasing nature to Jane and comfort her immensely.

It was with some relief that Elizabeth reflected to herself that when her own wedding day came, she would not need any advice of that nature, except perhaps how to conceal her experience, although she had a feeling that that part of her marriage would be different anyway.

Aunt Gardiner succeeded well in her mission and when Mrs Bennet returned, Jane was quite calm and composed enough to bare all her mother's well-meant pearls of wisdom.

After that, time in its unpredictable way, went quite quickly, just as those who wished it to do so had begun to appreciate the values of its apparent slowness. Mrs Bennet retired to her bedchamber to change, Jane thanked her sister for her diversion and Elizabeth, her own dressing complete, went downstairs to seek out her father.

Mr Bennet was in his study but not engaged in his usual profession. Instead his daughter encountered him sitting upon the window seat, his eyes gazing outwards. They turned at her entrance and he father greeted her with a smile. "Ah, Lizzy, you have come to seek me out, eh? Doubtless I will be engaged in the same occupation on your wedding day."

He paused to stand and then continued in an almost wistful tone. "Today I am losing the first of my only two sensible daughters and even though I still have you and Jane's abode will be not far, I cannot escape that feeling of loss. Indeed the only thing that gladdens me is that she goes to a good man."

He stepped forward then, taking Elizabeth's hands in his. "I was so glad you refused Mr Collins, Lizzy. I was by no means ever going to enforce you upon such a match but I am glad that you suffered no indecision's when confronted with it. If ever the day comes when I am to loose you, my dear, I pray you go willingly. Don't settle for anything but love."

"I will try, Papa," Elizabeth replied, tears threatening to leave their castles as her father embraced her.

"See that you do, my dear, see that you do," her father advised, before drawing away, the moment over. "Well now," he began anew, "what has cause your good mother to be in such a state today? Does she wish the wedding to be cancelled? I will happily arrange it so, if she permits."

Despite these jokes the wedding went ahead as planned and the Bennet family were soon waving their eldest goodbye, before they joined the couple once more for the wedding breakfast at Netherfield.

That event turned out to be a lot less intimate than planned, for instead of just family arriving, some officers turned up as well, having met Kitty and Lydia in Meryton a few moments before, thus securing their invitation.

Elizabeth stayed close to Georgiana, having spied Mr Wickham amongst them. The gentleman was no doubt banking on the joyfulness of the day to pass unnoticed by everyone. As yet, he had not noticed Miss Darcy there and Elizabeth was determined to keep it that way, however how it might interfere with her own plans.

As for Darcy, he did not spot Mr Wickham all day, for he was far too preoccupied in the events of his future. After today he and Georgiana would return to London where, as he had decided, he would leave her at his uncle's house with the rest of their cousins while he went to Rosings Park. This upcoming visit and the events that were to be spurred by it would provide difficulty in seeing Elizabeth again until the Autumn of the year, when he planned to visit Bingley and Jane once more. He had not realised til now just how long it would be and it only determined his mind all the more to never loose time with her again. After his divorce, he hoped, this loss would no longer be a problem.

His eyes drifted over the room, finally setting upon her and his sister talking at the other end. Georgiana was getting along with Elizabeth better than he had hoped. Briefly he wondered why everything seemed to be going so well, almost as if it was an omen of a storm about to break, when his friend joined him with his bride, sending the thought silently away. Later, he would be wishing it had stayed with all his might, so as to give him better warning for what was to come.

As morning drifted into midday and midday drifted into the late afternoon, Elizabeth began to despair of ever finding a moment alone with Mr Darcy. The celebration was coming to an end, indeed most of the guests had left already, including the officers, thus depriving her of any excuse to delay the event any longer. The only obstacle now was the method to use in bringing it about.

She glanced over the room, trying to locate him, in order to determine that method. He was talking or rather listening to Mr Bingley, who seemed in no mood to move whatsoever. Still she gazed at him, trying to send her plea in the gesture.

Darcy meanwhile had stopped trying to talk to his friend, who had seemed to have developed a penchant for monologues, and began to let his gaze wonder. It came to rest by chance upon Elizabeth, whom, he noticed suddenly, was gazing at with a purposeful intensity. I need to talk with you, her eyes seemed to be saying. He met her gaze, trying to confirm the meaning, but she moved away.

He followed her with his eyes and saw her destination was the library, and took this to mean his conclusions were correct. He pulled back his attention to Bingley, who, mercifully, had paused in his monologue of happiness and was waiting for a reply. Darcy managed to collect something appropriate to the occasion that hid his lapse of attention, before excusing himself to talk to his sister. When his friend's attentions was called away by his bride once more, Darcy changed direction and headed to the library.

"You wanted to talk?" He asked as soon as he had entered the room.

"Yes," Elizabeth replied and Darcy was struck for the first time at how agitated she appeared. "There is no easy way to say this," Elizabeth began, having managed to collect herself enough to begin, "yet said it must be before anything further occurs. I want this over."

"Darcy blinked in confusion. "What over?" He asked.

"This, us." She paused and seeing his bewilderment tried to formulate a proper sentence. "I would prefer it if neither of us saw each other as anything more than friends ever again."

Now he understood and what was worse he did not like what he was hearing. "For what reason?"

"We have to face the realities of our situation. If this continues any longer the probability of someone finding out is increased. The relative distance between us is of such a nature as to prevent us from continuing it anyway."

"And this is why you want to end it?" Darcy asked, still half bewildered by this sudden turn of events. He had never expected any of this to happen at all.

"I just think that it is best to end it now, before it becomes impossible to do so."

Darcy looked at her as he tried to consider which decision to take. He felt as though this was not happening and so it was with difficulty that he replied. "If that his your wish, then very well." I should let her have a chance to love, not bind her to a flimsy hope.

Elizabeth watched Darcy exit the room, surprised at how easy it had gone. Yet, she still felt remorse for doing it.

Volume II.

© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 20212001-2020. All rights reserved.