In Elizabeth’s mind the time between her father’s funeral and her impending nuptials flew away swiftly. She dreaded her wedding day, May 10, and soon it was upon her. Darcy, on the other hand, believed that the calendar pages were taking too long to reach that date. He was eager to have Elizabeth as his wife and, though he was grateful that she didn’t demand to wait till the customary mourning period was over, he was too impatient.
Thus, when the time to travel to Longbourn arrived, Darcy left as fast as he could, anticipating the pleasure he would feel upon being with his bride. In two days’ time she will be my wife, he thought as his carriage rolled its way from London towards Hertfordshire. He smiled softly as he recalled the little tender gifts he sent to his Elizabeth and the notes he believed would compensate her of his absence… a delicate flask of perfume, a pair of silk gloves, books to further the accomplishment of her mind… Yes, Elizabeth would be an exquisite wife, lively and intelligent. But when he thought of her family, his teeth cringed tightly.
Dealing with Collins had been the highlight of all the absurdities Darcy had seen in his eight and twenty years. The man was so adamant about obeying Lady Catherine’s wish of taking hold of Longbourn that Darcy had to bribe him into accepting a slight waiting period. The man would definitely be scared out of his wits if he didn’t please his noble patroness. Thus, he obliged Darcy in conceding a month to the Bennet ladies to move out. In exchange, Darcy would pay him a thousand pounds to “compensate” him for his “distress”.
This situation would obviously bring the Bennets the problem of finding suitable lodging and livelihood. Darcy recalled his conversation with Mr Gardiner and his mother-in-law to be. The gentleman had once again surprised him with his civility and propriety in manners and address as well as his intelligence. But Mrs Bennet… she had wailed and wailed about what would become of them if her brother or son-in-law wouldn’t take them in. He closed his eyes as his head started pounding at the mere thought of her squeals! She had hinted, practically stated, that they should all move to Pemberley. The idea disgusted him immediately! He had to remove his Elizabeth from this family and as far away as possible!
Luckily, Darcy had recalled that Netherfield could be a good investment for him as well as a good way of ensuring that Bingley wouldn’t be tempted in coming back to Hertfordshire and into the claws of Mrs Bennet. Therefore, he explained to Mr Gardiner and his sister that he was thinking of buying Netherfield, which would be under the care of his own steward, and the Bennet ladies would be tenants for life or until they all married.
Mrs Bennet, at first worried about Mr Bingley not coming back. I was right, all along. She is as mercenary as I thought! He recalled disgusted. But when she acknowledged the improvement of her establishment she forgot about her widowed conditioned and wailed and wailed about the riches of Netherfield!
However, Darcy’s biggest problem had been facing Bingley. A stern look spread over his face, as Darcy recalled meeting with his friend. He abhorred deceit and lies. It had been a difficult struggle for him to conceal all his dealings from Bingley. He managed to convince him that there was an eager buyer for the estate and that quitting Netherfield was the best he could do. As Bingley had never been interested in dealing with paperwork and transactions, he willing accepted Darcy’s offer of his own solicitor to take relinquish his lease on the property. He even accepted Caroline’s suggestion of visiting their relatives in Scarborough for a few weeks in an attempt to get further away from his feelings towards Miss Bennet. Darcy could not erase from his memory his friend’s dejected expression, but it would all be for the best, he kept reminding himself.
Thus, it had been imperative to conceal his wedding from the Bingleys as well. He knew his friend would be very upset but that was a situation that he would have to deal with later on. For now, Darcy had to concentrate on the final arrangements to establish the Bennet women in Netherfield and find a suitable steward in order to make it a profitable and well-managed estate. His new family, though disgraceful, would need a steady income and a proper household. After all, now they would be connected to him, to the Darcys.
He leaned his head back and closed his eyes opening his mind to the sweetness of his bride’s figure… Ah, Elizabeth… Soon we will be united and far from Hertfordshire! Soon you’ll be mine, mine alone! He sighed contentedly with a grin of pleased satisfaction.
As it was customary to Elizabeth she sought the comfort and quiet of Longbourn’s garden to escape from her overbearing mother. She was sitting on the bench holding her fiancé’s latest gift, looking at it puzzled. How can he be so thoughtful? She kept asking herself for the past weeks. She recalled his tender gestures towards her and his generosity over and over again. It bewildered her as she kept comparing this kind man to the odious one she knew in the past. Who was he?
Elizabeth knew she needed to reach a compromise towards Darcy if she were to live a comfortable life with her husband. She had resolved keeping her hatred to herself and put away what he had done to Wickham and Jane in the back of her mind. But how could she when she looked at Jane’s growing depression? It was an ongoing reminder of his hateful actions.
Sighing deeply, she opened the book. It was a precious edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Inside, he had scribbled, in his strong and elegant hand,
To my dearest loveliest Elizabeth, I hope the bard’s words will give you as much pleasure as I derive from the beauty of your eyes. Please read my favourite, sonnet XVII. From your Fitzwilliam
She gasped and trembling she turned the pages till she found the sonnet he had singled out. The page was marked with a lovely silk bookmark embroidered in gold thread with her soon-to-be new initials: ED. Elizabeth closed her eyes momentarily while she caressed the precious bookmark with her fingertips. “He can be so attentive” she whispered. Then, she focused on the sonnet and the fluttering she felt inside her increased as she read, letting Darcy’s meaning of his choice sink into her, overwhelming her more and more:
Who will believe my verse in time to come, If it were fill’d with your most high deserts? Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb Which hides your life and shows not half your parts. If I could write the beauty of your eyes And in fresh numbers number all your graces, The age to come would say, ‘This poet lies; Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.’ So should my papers, yellow’d with their age, Be scorn’d, like old men of less truth than tongue, And your true rights be term’d a poet's rage And stretched metre of an antique song: But were some child of yours alive that time, You should live twice,—in it and in my rime.
So enraptured was she in his gift that Elizabeth hadn’t heard Wickham’s approach. He gently laid his hand on her shoulder startling her from her reverie. She jumped and gasped as she realised who was before her.
“Mr Wickham! What are you doing here?”
“Miss Bennet, I’m sorry if I frightened you… It was not my intention, I assure you. Your sisters, Miss Lydia and Miss Kitty have invited me and Denny for tea. I hope you’ll not object to my presence…” he inquired uncertainly.
“Oh, no, no…” she replied nervously and clutching Darcy’s book to her chest.
“I must say that I accepted the offer because I wanted to see you again.” Wickham waited a few minutes for her reply. But Elizabeth kept silent. He ventured anew,
“I wanted to apologize, Miss Elizabeth. Our last meeting… I fear I was carried away by my feelings. I shouldn’t have spoken as I had. Will you forgive me?”
She lifted her eyes to his and replied softly “That is quite all right, Mr Wickham.”
“I hope we can still be friends. I would not like to part from you on bad terms… Though I suspect we will never see each other again…” He poised nervously.
“Why?” she inquired surprised at his words. She frowned as she repeated “Why do you say that Mr Wickham?”
“Well, I fear… I believe Darcy will never allow his wife to speak to me. Thus, I fear this shall be our last meeting.”
Elizabeth looked at him intrigued. Could it be possible that Darcy would be controlling who she would associate herself with? Did she want to continue her friendship with Wickham? Even if he was her husband’s biggest enemy? Once more, she felt the fleeting sensation of losing control over her life. And that annoyed her.
“Mr Wickham, I assure…”
“Miss Elizabeth, I understand.” He interrupted her. He extended his hand and held her empty hand tightly. “I assure you I will keep our acquaintance as the sweetest memory… I hope you will remember me, sweet Elizabeth…” And he kissed her hand softly. Disturbed, she tried to release it from his grasp.
Elizabeth startled mortified. He is back! And he saw me with him! She paced backwards uncomfortable about the situation she was in. She glanced at Darcy who glared murderously towards Wickham.
“What are you doing here, Wickham?” he questioned him with ill-controlled rage.
Sniggering, Wickham bowed to Elizabeth with a nervous grin plastered on his face and then turned to Darcy and snorted,
“May I give you my sincere congratulations on your engagement, Darcy? You are a fortunate man, if I may say so… Miss Elizabeth is certainly an exquisite delectable…”
“Wickham! It is Miss Bennet to you! My forbearance towards you is reaching its limit fast! Now, leave!” Glaring furiously at him, Darcy struggled to control his anger as he closed his fists tightly by his sides.
Elizabeth protested softly at Darcy’s curt dismissal of Wickham. Surely he had been forward towards her but that was no excuse to be unpleasant with her guest. But Darcy’s demeanour quickly schooled her to control her displeasure. He was very upset with her; she could tell it from the cold glare in his eyes.
Wickham left immediately, in silence, pleased with the sight of an angry Elizabeth facing her displeased and raging fiancé. Well, well Darcy, this might turn out interesting… I might be able to gain something from this, he wondered as he left hastily.
Darcy was avoiding looking at Elizabeth. He had to control his anger. He was utterly displeased with the familiarity Wickham bestowed upon her and her easy acceptance of it. How could she allow his advances when she was to marry him in two days? Turning to face her, he was surprised to see her displeasure written upon her beautiful countenance. How lovely she looked when her eyes flashed wildly with fury… Fury? He wondered, how can she be furious? I’m the one who should be outraged!
“Elizabeth, may I ask…”
“Mr Darcy, how could you be so unpleasant to poor Mr Wickham?” she interrupted him in an indignant tone. “I know he was a bit forward but I was capable of handling the situation by myself. He’s a guest at my home!”
“I don’t care if he is a guest. Besides, he shouldn’t even be here and least of all with you! You are to be my wife! I don’t want you near that man, and certainly not speaking to him!”
“Are you forbidding me to talk to a friend? She asked bewildered. “Why may I ask?”
“Trust me, Elizabeth, that man is not one you should be considering as a friend.”
“But why? Don’t I deserve an explanation?”
“You’ll have to accept my word upon this. Elizabeth, may this be the last time I see you speaking to him. I don’t want to argue with you any longer about this.”
As Elizabeth watched his tense face she tried to rein her anger in silence. It would do her no good to infuriate him about this. In two days’ time they would be wed and she had no desire of living with an angry husband. She would have to relinquish this friendship… It would be no great loss, she figured, as she would probably never lay her eyes upon Wickham again. Lowering her eyes to the book she held, she resolved to try please Darcy so that the black cloud hanging over them could be cast away.
“I haven’t thanked you yet for your lovely gifts, sir.” She said softly as she warily looked at him.
After inhaling deeply and closing his eyes for a respite, Darcy’s face softened and he reached for her hand. His fingers entwined hers spreading through her hand an unfamiliar but exquisitely pleasant warmth. She shuddered at his touch and he felt it.
“My darling Elizabeth, they are nothing compared to you…” he whispered as he closed the distance between them. “Do you enjoy reading Shakespeare?”
“Yes, he is my favourite author. My father…” she faltered at the memory of her loss. He squeezed her hand gently to encourage her. Looking at him she continued, “My father always encouraged me to read Shakespeare’s works. He was his favourite as well.”
Tears welled up in her beautiful eyes. Understanding her grief, Darcy stroked her hand gently and whispered to her in a tone so soft and tender that sent through her a shiver of delight,
“ If I could write the beauty of your eyes, And in fresh numbers number all your graces, The age to come would say, ‘This poet lies; Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces. ’”
He touched her face so lightly with his fingertips. His eyes seemed to swallow her as she gazed into their dark depth.
“My love…” he whispered on her lips.
“Liiiizzzzzy!” her mother squealed from the door. “Bring dear Mr Darcy inside for tea! Where are your manners?”
The interlude was shattered between them. Both were unsatisfied but Elizabeth wanted to believe that she was more displeased about his dismissal of Wickham than about the kiss that didn’t happen. At least that was she kept telling herself as he guided her across the garden and into the house.
After tea, Darcy easily persuaded Elizabeth to return to the garden. She was quite embarrassed by her mother’s raptures upon her groom and the prospect of inhabiting Netherfield. Her mother had no sense at all and she seemed to have forgotten that she was a widow, a very recent one.
They soon reached her favourite bench in the secluded corner of the garden. After being certain that his lovely bride was comfortable, Darcy surprised her when he knelt before her and presented her with a small worn box.
Elizabeth watched him intently as he struggled to speak. Could he be shy? She wondered. He certainly seemed to be blushing and embarrassed. No, it could not be. He was a proud and arrogant man.
“Elizabeth, I… I… Well, you see… You… I… ” he hesitated as he searched in his mind for the perfect words, for his perfect Elizabeth.
“What is it, sir? The cat caught your tongue?” she teased him with a glint of mischief in her eyes. His shyness disarmed her. She had even forgotten her ill-manner towards him. He smiled broadly at her teasing. His smile confounded her. His smile turned his handsome face even more handsome.
In the absence of words, he opened the box and revealed to her the loveliest ring she had ever seen. She gasped as she observed it. It was a delicate golden ring with small diamonds entwined with small roses engraved on the band. It was simple but exquisite and certainly an heirloom.
“It was mother’s engagement ring, as it was my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s. Now it is yours, my dearest loveliest Elizabeth.” He took the ring and kissed it before sliding it upon her finger slowly and gently. Then he kissed her ringed finger. “I should have given it to you earlier, my dear. But the circumstances… well, it wasn’t the proper occasion. I hope you will forgive me.”
“Oh, no… it doesn’t matter. It is lovely, Mr Darcy. Thank you.”
He watched her as she watched her ring. Her changing attitudes confused him. Sometimes she seemed to dislike him, then she would be shy with him. Definitely, it was not the Elizabeth he thought she would be as his fiancée. She was outspoken and lively but with him she retreated. He had imagined she would be as passionate as he was… He frowned as his thoughts raced through his mind.
Perceiving his frown, Elizabeth wondered if she had displeased him. She decided to make him happy and timidly touched his face, surprising him. He turned his head so that he could kiss her palm tenderly. He smiled and sat beside her and entwining his fingers with hers.
“The day after tomorrow we will be husband and wife. How are the preparations going, dearest?”
She cringed as she thought that she had left almost everything in her mother’s hands. This was not the wedding she wanted. This was not the groom she wanted. Swallowing her uneasiness, she softly replied,
“Everything has been taken care of. There wasn’t much to do as we are in mourning, as you know. My Aunt and Uncle Gardiner will be arriving tomorrow.”
“I’m glad. I’ll be pleased to see Mr and Mrs Gardiner again. My sister and Colonel Fitzwilliam will be arriving tomorrow as well. Georgiana is anxious to meet you.”
“Aye, and I her. And Mr Bingley, will he be at the wedding as well?” she asked him thinking of dear Jane.
A flash of annoyance crossed his eyes and his mouth twisted in a tense line. “No, he won’t be coming. He has travelled to Scarborough and he will be there for some weeks. My cousin Fitzwilliam will be standing up for me.”
A feeling of despair descended upon her. He didn’t tell Mr Bingley! He certainly concealed her father’s demise and now their wedding. Insufferable man! Poor Jane! She barely managed to contain her frustration.
Pleading a sudden headache, he gently returned her to her home and took leave. His Elizabeth definitely puzzled him.
The wedding day came along on a bright cheerful day. May flowers were blooming everywhere. But the bride couldn’t feel the brightness and cheerfulness around her. Her misgivings about the wedding disturbed her deeply and the loss of her father was still too fresh on her mind.
She stared at the reflection on her mirror. She looked quite beautiful. As a bride in mourning, she didn’t want to disrespect her father’s memory by using a white gown. She chose a more suitable dress: a soft pearl grey silk. The bodice was lightly embroidered in dark grey with little pearls. Her wild curly hair had been crafted sophisticatedly. Her dark chocolate curls were interlaced with little pearls and orange blossoms. The maid had put on her wedding bonnet matching her gown and a grey veil on top. She looked quite pretty, but it was hard for her to conceal the misery in her eyes.
She felt miserable for marrying Darcy. She didn’t love him. She felt guilty because he truly loved her and she was being dishonest by not professing her lack of affection towards him. But it was late. She had accepted him, she had accepted the “bargain”: she was to wed him and her family to live in Netherfield. Breathing in deeply she prayed for herself, she needed to be strong. She promised herself to make this arrangement work. Her family was deeply indebted to this man.
Picking up her bouquet of orange blossoms and cream roses, she left the safety of her girlhood room into the uncertainty of what awaited her: a new phase that would lead her to womanhood. Hopefully, not so grim a future…
It had been a long day. The ceremony was a blur in Elizabeth’s mind and the small discreet wedding breakfast at Netherfield, her family’s new home, passed by swiftly. Darcy delayed for a few hours their departure to London at his wife’s request. She wanted to accompany her family’s arrival at Netherfield and depart from her beloved home at Longbourn. The journey to London had been quite silent and stressing as well. Her husband watched her most of the time and that left her uncomfortable. The arrival at the Darcys’ townhouse was taxing as well. It was an elegant but sober building. But lined in the foyer were all the servants and the housekeeper to welcome their Master and their new Mistress. She felt as if she was on display for their inspection and that left her uncomfortable too.
It had been, indeed, a lengthy stressful day. Elizabeth’s emotions were in a whirlwind as she recalled leaving behind her mother, her sisters and Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Specially Jane… She knew her husband held a low opinion of her family and it would certainly mean that she would be seeing them not as often as she liked.
And her father… How she longed for her father… A tear fell on her cheek as she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Not much had changed since the last time she looked at herself. But there was a change: now she was a married woman. Looking back at her was the image of a woman with sorrowful eyes clad in a revealing silk nightgown and matching robe. Touching her gown, she was amazed at the smooth feeling on her body and she blushed deeply as she could easily see the shape of her body underneath it. Her Aunt Gardiner had given it to her and whispered that Mr Darcy would be pleased to see her in it.
Her new maid, Sally, had just left her in her new bedroom. She had liked it instantly. It was a cheerful room decorated in soft tones of blue and cream and it was elegantly furnished. The room gave her the impression of a garden as several bouquets of cream roses interspersed with orange blossoms surrounded her. Mr Darcy certainly knew how to please a woman… Unfortunately not always! she reminded herself snappily.
She seated herself on the settee in front of the fireplace. She was getting nervous. She wasn’t sure about what to expect. Soon her husband would come to her and she would become his wife in her bed. She shivered as she recalled her mother’s brief description of what to expect and how to behave. Her mother had advised her to lie back and suffer the unpleasant duties of a wife. “Don’t laugh, don’t cry and don’t move!” she had repeated to her several times. She dreaded the moment as she had heard in the past, when overhearing certain hushed conversations, that the marital duties could be quite unpleasant. But her dear Aunt Gardiner had told her, when she revealed her fears, to trust her husband, to trust in his love. What could this mean? She hated being kept in the dark and not knowing what would happen was what exasperated her the most.
Suddenly a thought struck her. Would he find out that she didn’t love him? Would he be able to discover that when they joined in bed? The notion of this dreadful revelation left her in a bigger distress. He would be upset and he would hate her… Would he hurt her? As she pondered on this, she hadn’t noticed that her husband had just entered her room. Darcy paused in the doorway as he took her figure in. She looked amazingly beautiful, a bewitching seductress even if she didn’t realise it. She had kept her hair up with the pearls and orange blossoms she had worn at the wedding. Her nightclothes were very alluring and revealing. She was certainly the handsomest woman of his acquaintance and she was his, his wife, he mused satisfied.
“Elizabeth” he whispered softly as he approached her.
Startled, she stood up unaware that she produced an even more attractive picture to her husband. “Good evening, sir.” She greeted him nervously. She felt awkwardly undressed as he was still wearing his shirt and breeches. His unclothed neck fastened her attention as he walked towards her.
“Would you like some wine, my love?” he asked her as he poured a glass.
“No, I mean, yes, no… Yes, I would like some, sir.” She grabbed the glass he handed her and drank it all at once. Chuckling he offered her some more which she immediately accepted.
“Drink this one more slowly, Elizabeth. Otherwise you’ll be sick” he advised her laughing softly as he perceived her uneasiness.
They both sat on the settee sipping the wine. Darcy knew she was nervous and that he needed to control his ardour for her. Setting aside his glass he started fiddling his fingers in her hair removing the pins and pearls that held it up. Her dark curls tumbled down as he worked his way through them. The fragrance of the orange blossoms intoxicated him and he couldn’t resist nuzzling his face in her hair.
“You are so beautiful, Elizabeth… You don’t know how lovely you are to me…” he whispered as he kissed her fragrant curls. He caressed her arms gently as he turned her towards him. She was blushing violently and couldn’t return his gaze. He touched her face lightly with his fingers and cupped her chin lifting her face so that he could see her beautiful eyes.
“Look at me, my love.” He whispered against her lips. She felt drawn into his eyes. Her conflicting feelings towards this man pulsed through her. She felt she was easily losing her control and drowning in his beautiful dark eyes. It was an innocent kiss at first. Slowly, his tongue began teasing her lips in a gentle manner. He pulled away from her and brushed a curl back from her face. He kissed her again and again and Elizabeth felt herself grow warmer and breathless with each kiss her husband was giving her. Without understanding how it happened, he had undressed her robe. He was caressing her naked arms and back leaving Elizabeth in a whirlwind of sensations unknown to her.
He looked into her dazed eyes and swiftly scooped her in his arms and carried her to her bed. He lay beside her as he marveled at her beauty and softness. She grew weary as she knew what she dreaded was to come.
She tensed as his hand moved over her hip and down to her leg and as she felt his fingers begin to pull and bunch the silky material of her nightgown, pulling it up her legs until his hand rested on the bare skin of her thigh. The shock of feeling his hot hand on her skin sent a shudder through her body. She recalled her mother’s advice “Don’t laugh, don’t cry and don’t move!” and stilled her body as much as she could. She was conscious of the growing warmth on her body as he moved his hands up her legs, sliding the gown up till her waist. The cool air upon her most intimate parts made her conscious of her vulnerable nakedness when he was still fully clothed. She breathed in sharply and her face was covered with the deepest flush. She reacted instinctively and put her hands below trying to cover herself.
“Don’t be ashamed my love.” He assured her as he took off his shirt fumbled upon the buttons of his breeches. Reaching out to her hands he gently removed them to her sides and swiftly rolled on top of her. She gasped in her confusion. She was experiencing such pleasant and disconcerting sensations but at the same time her lack of affection for him screamed at the forefront of her mind. Sensing her awkwardness, Darcy resumed his kissing and caressing.
His right knee moved between her thighs forcing her to open them. He gently eased himself inside her softness and as he pushed deeper Elizabeth tensed. She felt a tightness and she cried out softly at the sharp pain inside her. Darcy stopped suddenly alarmed at her cry. Kissing her face he felt her tears.
“Are you all right, my love? I know it hurts… it is supposed to hurt for a while. It shall pass.” He gently continued pushing his way to take final possession of her. “You are mine, my love” he whispered in her ear as he moved in her. “We are now one.”
Elizabeth was tense, forcing herself to be still and quiet. But soon Darcy quivered over and in her. She felt a sudden flood of wetness deep inside her while his manhood throbbed inside her. He rolled off to his side and gathered her in his arms kissing her passionately.
She is finally mine! He smiled as he drifted into a deep satisfied sleep. I’m now his! she wearily shuddered. Staring at the ceiling, she waited for slumber to arrive and involve her in numbness.
Three weeks had gone by as the Darcys started their new life as a couple in London. It was a time to become acquainted with each other and to share the ups and downs of marriage.
They were tentative towards each other as if they were walking on thin ice. Darcy was aware that his wife was still deeply affected by her father’s death. He also believed that being apart from her family, especially Jane, added to her depressed mood. However, he couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed with her as he had imagined Elizabeth as being a more passionate wife. Her charming playfulness seemed to have disappeared and the sparkling of her beautiful eyes was subdued.
“It must be about her father” he kept telling himself, soothing his uneasiness.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, felt trapped in her depressive moods. She mourned her father, she longed for Jane and she feared Darcy’s discovery about her true feelings for him. She didn’t love him… and that made her feel guilty. Her guilt was acute for his regard for her was fervent which left her dwelling in a sense of unworthiness. He had been overtly generous towards her family. He had done it for her, expecting nothing but her love for him. And she couldn’t, she wouldn’t return her feelings.
Their stay in town was mostly occupied with numerous tasks concerning their household and the preparations to leave to Pemberley. While Darcy helped his wife become acquainted with their townhouse and its management, his admiration for her intelligence and perceptiveness grew more and more. She was a sensible young woman who revealed interest in learning her duties and assuring that others, her new family and their servants, were comfortable and cared for. He had been right in his choice. Despite her outrageous family, she was someone he could be proud of.
Their days were spent with household and business duties. In the mornings Elizabeth would go shopping for her trousseau and new wardrobe in the company of her dear Aunt Gardiner. In the afternoons, the Darcys could be seen in the quiet solitude of their library or strolling in the nearest park.
They even attended a family gathering at the Matlocks. But these weeks were spent mostly by themselves and their nights had been spent in the intimacy of Elizabeth’s bed as Darcy’s passion for his bride had not diminished, contrarily to what Mrs Bennet had foretold her daughter.
Two days before leaving to Pemberley, Darcy and Elizabeth were expected to call on his Uncle, the Earl of Matlock. She dreaded meeting his relatives, fearing their rejection or their displeasure towards their marriage as Lady Catherine had done. The formidable mistress of Rosings Park had berated her, accusing her of polluting the shades of Pemberley in a very long and abusive letter she had received a few days before the wedding.
It had been with a lot of trepidation that Elizabeth met her new relatives though her husband had assured her that they would all love her. His Aunt, Lady Margaret, had welcomed her warmly. She was as amiable as her son, Colonial Fitzwilliam. His Uncle, though, had observed her sombrely as stared at her as Darcy had done in Hertfordshire. Definitely, the Earl of Matlock disapproved of his nephew’s match, even though he hadn’t uttered a word about it. His demeanour was cold and condescending whenever he addressed her, barely making the effort to acknowledge her. Present at the family gathering were also their sons, Edward, the eldest, and his wife Eleanor, and Richard, the Colonel. The sweet shy presence of Georgiana quieted some of the uneasiness that disturbed Elizabeth.
Darcy had remained quite silent during their visit at the Matlocks. First he had talked quietly with his sister, assessing how she had fared away from him and under their Aunt and Uncle’s care. Then, during most of the afternoon, he watched silently as his wife struggled through to please his family. He watched smiling as she conversed with Lady Margaret and the Colonel. His Aunt rapidly warmed up to Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam easily engaged her in a light teasing banter. Soon Elizabeth was able to include Georgiana’s timid participation in their easy conversation. He watched with great pleasure as Elizabeth bloomed into the lively Miss Bennet he had fallen in love with in Hertfordshire.
The evening would bring some unpleasantness to Elizabeth. The Matlocks had insisted they joined them for supper as they were entertaining some guests. Elizabeth had claimed her desire to leave as she was still in mourning, therefore it would be improper for her to attend a social gathering. Despite this, Darcy accepted the invitation willing to appease his Uncle’s obvious displeasure about his marital choice.
Elizabeth was rapidly growing annoyed at her husband’s dismissal of her wishes. She was tired of the stressful afternoon with his relatives and she had no desire to socialize with strangers of the ton.
The Matlocks welcomed to their table their friends Mr and Mrs Worthington. Mr Worthington was a pompous greasy fellow in his thirties. He reminded Elizabeth of her dreadful cousin, Mr Collins. His wife Isabella, on the other hand, was a stunning tall blond of five and twenty. She exuded frivolity and snobbery.
The new additions to the party brought no relief to Elizabeth as they were as haughty and proud as the Earl of Matlock. They were civil, to be sure but Mrs Worthington eyed her with condescension and a glint of contempt which annoyed her deeply.
Her distress increased as she observed her husband in deep conversation with the beautiful Mrs Worthington. He looked a different man. He seemed to be enjoying her company. He smiled and even laughed softly. She recalled his cousin’s words in Hunsford about Darcy’s “liveliness” in “other places”.
Disappointment filled her mind as she dropped her gaze to her lap. She could never be considered a beautiful woman. That appellation had always been given to her sweet sister, Jane. And now, still in mourning, despite wearing a new black satin gown, she looked very plain in comparison to their fair guest. For Mrs Worthington was indeed a sight to be seen: her tall slender figure was hugged revealing by an elegant gown of blue silk that enhanced her clear blue eyes and light complexion. Her blonde hair was elegantly entwined in a sophisticated arrangement of feathers and blue ribbons. She exuded elegance and confidence. She flirted with Darcy and seemed to have captivated his attention.
Her annoyance grew as she found her place at the table away from her husband, he was seated on his Aunt’s right side and next to him was the blond creature. Elizabeth was seated on the Earl’s right side and next to Mr Worthington. At least across from her was sweet Georgiana. But her shyness seemed greater even though she was seated on her Uncle’s side.
Elizabeth was confused about the conflicting emotions twirling inside her. She did not care for him, so why should she be upset? She kept telling herself to stop worrying about it. However, she couldn’t keep her eyes off her husband. She watched as Darcy fell into a quiet conversation with Mrs Worthington and as the lady leaned closer and smiling at him.
Her dinner companions barely spoke to her which added to her pitiful mood as she contemplated the other end of the table. Everyone seemed oblivious to her mood, except for the annoying Mrs Worthington who would glance at her occasionally with a wry smile on her lips. Unbeknownst to her, Lady Margaret caught Elizabeth’s frowned expression and glares and immediately understood that the woman’s flirtation was upsetting her new niece. She tried to catch her gaze, and when she did, she smiled affectionately at Elizabeth in an attempt to appease her distress.
“Mrs Darcy, pray tell me, have you ever been to Pemberley, my dear?” Lady Margaret inquired trying to draw her into conversation.
“No, I haven’t, Lady Margaret. But I’ll be seeing it soon as we leave in a few days.”
“Pemberley?” Mrs Worthington interrupted. “You haven’t been to Pemberley, Mrs Darcy? Oh my… you must take her sir. It is such a grand estate! Mr Darcy has such exquisite taste… Your home in Derbyshire is remarkable, sir!”
She rambled on about the grandness of Pemberley, resembling frighteningly Miss Bingley’s babbling whenever the subject concerning Darcy’s estate was brought up.
Darcy blushed slightly and smiled uncomfortably as he gazed his wife.
“I haven’t been to Pemberley for a while… It must have been two years ago, wouldn’t it Mr Darcy?” She turned to his Aunt and added “Such a grand house… How I long to see it again! We must visit you in the country some time… I’m sure my husband would be delighted as well.”
“We would be honoured” Darcy replied watching his frowning wife.
“You mustn’t hide in Derbyshire for so long, Darcy.” The blond creature’s husband chided him. “You tend to shun the pleasures of town. We haven’t had the pleasure of your company in town lately…”
“Why, yes Mr Darcy. Please don’t hide in Pemberley, sir. We long for your company…” she added seductively. Facing Elizabeth she said in a sarcastic tone “Certainly your wife would be too bored for so long in the country, wouldn’t you Mrs Darcy?”
“Not at all” Elizabeth replied dryly. “I’m a simple girl haling from Hertfordshire. I would never grow tired of the country.”
The blond creature eyed her critically. “Well, but you would certainly lack the sophistication of town…” She gazed her slowly with a sarcastic inflection on her features, she added “Hiding away in the country certainly makes one grow… plain… uninteresting…”
Elizabeth gasped at her audacity. Darcy frowned and dropped his gaze to his glass of wine. Sensing the tension, Lady Margaret stood up and urged the ladies to leave to the music room, breaking up the conversation.
As Elizabeth left the dining-room, she felt Darcy’s stern glare upon her. How dare he, she thought, I’m insulted and he looks at me as if I’m the guilty one!
Soon after the men joined the ladies in the music room, the evening came to an end as Darcy expressed his wish to leave. He informed his sister of their plans to leave for Pemberley in a few days and that Colonel Fitzwilliam would accompany her back to Derbyshire in a month.
Lady Margaret’s heart went out to Elizabeth as she had sympathised with the girl’s distress about meeting the family and she regretted having imposed the Worthingtons on her. Before entering their carriage, she unexpectedly hugged Elizabeth and whispered to her ear to disregard the flirtation Darcy bore.
Once on the road towards the Darcy town house, Darcy broke his silence.
“Elizabeth, I’m sorry about this evening. I know you didn’t want to stay… but my Uncle, he… he doesn’t approve of our marriage. But he will never mistreat you… I assure you that…” Her silence worried him. He added softly “In time, I believe you will be able to conquer his heart, as you do with everyone who has the pleasure of knowing you…”
She continued silent, her gaze fixed on the floor.
“My love, are you upset? Is this about Mrs Worthington?” he chuckled softly.
“You find this funny, sir? That woman insulted me in front of your family! And you said nothing!” she replied resentfully.
He laughed softly and pulled her into his arms. She pouted and struggled attempting to release herself. But he held her tighter and whispered and her ear,
“My, my… we are jealous, Mrs Darcy…” he nuzzled her neck playfully. “You are my jealous little one.”
Frustrated, she gave in and leaned against him. Insufferable, insufferable man!