Elizabeth Darcy sat with a sigh. For the first time in a week it was not a sigh of contentment, but rather a sigh of resignation. She was about to undergo what she felt would be the worst of her duties as Mistress of Pemberley. She stared woefully at the reflection in the looking glass above her dressing table.
"Mornin', Mrs. Darcy." her maid cheerfully greeted her. "I've got your new cream dress ready for you as requested, ma'am."
"Thank you, Lucy," Elizabeth replied as she stood to don her dress with the aide of her new maid. Once she was completely dressed, she sat back down and Lucy began brushing her hair.
"How do you want me to fix your hair today, ma'am?"
"Nothing too fancy today. I'm afraid it will be hidden under this." Elizabeth raised a white lace cap and eyed it angrily. "I have put off wearing it long enough. Miss Elizabeth could avoid wearing a cap. Unfortunately, Mrs. Darcy cannot. So I shall wear it, though I hate the sight of it."
As Elizabeth was saying this, Lucy was pinning up her long, dark hair. She reached for the cap and began securing it in place. Elizabeth could not bear to look in the mirror as this was done.
"There, ma'am," Lucy stated, proud of her work. "Will you be needing anythin' more?"
"No, thank you," replied Elizabeth, still not bringing herself to look at her reflection. She stared at her hands until she heard the door close behind Lucy. She then steeled herself and raised her eyes.
She almost cried.
Exactly eight days ago her mother had summoned Elizabeth and her sister Jane into her sitting room. They had thought they were going to have to endure a tearful farewell, as their wedding day was the next day. They were dead wrong.
After nearly an hour of the most harrowing, not to mention downright embarrassing lecture either sister had ever heard, they were allowed to retire for the night. Both girls left their mother's room with faces a few shades lighter than they had entered, and walked silently into Elizabeth's bedchamber.
"Oh Lizzie!" Jane softly exclaimed. "Can it really be so? I... I... I cannot believe Charles could do something so dreadful! Or Mr. Darcy! No. Mama must be mistaken."
"Really, Jane! She has much more experience than either of us. It must be true! And to think that we always thought the mystery of the wedding night to be a good thing! I think this shall be the worst duty as wife of the Master of Pemberley."
Elizabeth laughed now, despite her low feelings. "Oh, mama," she sighed." How wrong you were."
She blushed at the memory of that night. It was the same magical night that her beloved Fitzwilliam vowed that, though they had separate bedchambers, they would always occupy one bed together. It seemed neither could sleep unless they were cuddled together. Elizabeth found it amazing that she had ever had a decent night's sleep without the warm body of her husband sleeping beside her.
Elizabeth shook her head to clear it of her musings. It was at that moment when the enemy cap displayed its second offence. Aside from making her look years older and much less attractive (and, she shuddered to think, she was reminded of her mother every time she saw it), it restricted her usually bouncy curls from moving.
"If I were anyone else's wife I would refuse to wear this thing," she thought aloud. "However, I must not shame my Fitzwilliam by refusing to conform to at least some of society's standards."
With yet another sign of resignation, Elizabeth left her chambers to join her husband in the breakfast room of Pemberley.
Fitzwilliam Darcy was in a great mood. He was grinning like a simpleton and he knew it. "Well, why should I not grin like the village idiot?" he said to the empty breakfast room. "I have this beautiful home, excellent servants, an amazing sister, and, most of all, the most incredible, gorgeous, wonderful, and vibrant wife in the world! She is so unbelievable. She even has me talking to myself!"
He stood and walked to the sideboard to pour a cup of tea. He paused to collect himself with a few deep breaths until he felt some of his self-control returning. Throwing all his concentration into making it back to the table without spilling the tea, Darcy decided to distract himself from the charms of his new wife for the first time in one week.
They had spent their wedding night in London and the next day had set out for Pemberley. Halfway home, it started to snow. They were forced to stop earlier than planned in a charming village with a quaint little inn. They woke the next morning to find the roads impassable and the countryside looking fresh with the purest white snow covering everything for miles. Darcy and Elizabeth had looked in awe at the sparkling landscape before them.
As soon as they had dressed and breakfasted and Darcy had confirmed that they would have to stay at least this day, they thought up ways to pass the time. They decided to walk up the street and window shop. Darcy could think of nothing more pleasant than showing off his beautiful bride. Well, almost nothing, but Elizabeth had convinced him that they should not spend the entire day in their room.
"Oh!" Elizabeth remarked at the stepped outside. "It looks like someone sprinkled millions of tiny diamonds all over!"
"That it does, my love," replied Fitzwilliam as he looked adoringly at his wife. "I am just glad they gave the brightest diamond to me! I dare say you are more radiant than all the diamonds in the world, my beloved Mrs. Darcy."
Elizabeth's deep blush and warm smile made Fitzwilliam Darcy feel such an intense love that he threw propriety to the wind and kissed his wife in plain view of the entire town (perhaps not too grand a scandal as the town was smaller than both Meryton and Lambton, but considering Darcy's public reserve, this is almost as bad as streaking naked through London's Hyde Park at the fashionable hour). When he pulled back, he noticed the blush and smile had left Elizabeth's face.
In their place was an impish grin and that look in her eyes.
Darcy groaned inwardly, wondering what was happening in that head of hers. He was surprised when she just started walking toward the shops. Breathing a sigh of relief, he started after her.
And that's when it hit him.
No, not a great idea or some other wonderful revelation, but a huge ball of snow. Square in the face. "So that was what she was grinning about," he thought. "Right. She asked for it!"
By the time he cleared off his face, she had run halfway across the town's square. He took off as fast as possible. He caught her in record time, which is not all that surprising considering his long legs and her long skirts. He knew he made a mistake as soon as his arm went around her waist.
The force of his arm was enough to knock Elizabeth off balance. She grabbed his arm as she began to fall. Belatedly, she realized that he, too, had slipped on some ice and was also falling.
They fell into each other's arms as they hit the soft snow. Darcy grabbed Elizabeth's shoulders and looked in earnest at her face. His concern that she was hurt disappeared with her laughter. He chuckled and helped her sit up. They were both covered in snow and had lost their hats. Elizabeth's hair had come loose and tumbled down over her shoulders. Darcy grabbed his hat and her bonnet after helping her to he feet.
"My beautiful snow nymph," he said as he raised his hand to her long mass of dark curls. He tore his eyes away from hers as she shivered. Remembering his manners, not to mention the cold snow melting on his rear, he offered his arm to his wife and led her back to the dry warmth of the inn.
Darcy smiled at the memory as he took another sip of tea. He barely felt it burn his tongue as he thought of her hair. It had captivated him for over a year. During the few altercations they had in the course of their courtship, he had discovered her silky curls had a more sinister purpose. In the midst of one argument, Elizabeth had turned quickly on her heel, causing the curls in the back of her head to whip Darcy sharply. He had requested she make him a riding crop using her hair. Oh how he loved her hair!
"Fine job you are doing, Darcy!" he harshly thought to himself. "I have ignored the business at Pemberley too long. I must work for a few hours today and not allow myself to be distracted. Pull yourself together, man!"
He filled his mouth with the slightly cooler, though still very hot tea, just as the door swung open, revealing his wife.
He didn't know what was worse, his wife in a cap or the sensation of scalding hot tea spraying out his nose.
"Fitzwilliam!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "Good God, are you all right? Here, let me help you with that. What happened?"
"Oh dear Lord that was most painful!" Darcy managed through tears. His nose hurt something fierce. "No, no, Mrs. Darcy. I am quite well. Or will be in a moment. Please, sit and give me a few seconds." After the initial shock of the burn wore down and most of the mess had been cleared up, Darcy turned back to his wife. "I dare say, Mrs. Darcy, you rather startled me when you walked through the door. I was lost in thought. It was a foolish and absent-minded thing to do."
Elizabeth looked at her husband wearily. "My love, something else is wrong. That was most unlike you. You are acting very strange."
"No, you are mistaken. I was just startled. You are the one acting strangely, Mrs. Darcy. I would have thought we would be laughing heartily by now. Are you feeling well?"
"Oh! Don't you dare turn this on me, sir! You know I would be quite diverted with this had it happened under normal circumstances. You do not believe you are acting in a strange manner?" Darcy shook his head. "Very well, Mister Darcy, I will point out your absurdities. First, when you are startled you merely look startled. You do not lose your composure and spray tea out your nose. Second, you were looking into my eyes and smiling when I first entered the room. You were completely aware of my arrival before I startled you. And third, which I find most disturbing, you called me Mrs. Darcy. Thrice! We have been at Pemberley for three days now. All the servants know my name is Elizabeth because that is the only name you have used when addressing me directly. I am only Mrs. Darcy when you are introducing me. Now I see that after only one week of joyful matrimony we have ceased to be on familiar terms with one another. And there you have it, sir. Yes, you are acting very strange indeed, Mr. Darcy."
Darcy was stunned. He couldn't believe she thought so low of his feelings for her. Didn't he know how ardently he admired and loved her? Had he really called her Mrs. Darcy three times? Had he really been so cold to her? Darcy began to feel ashamed. "I guess this means separate bedchambers from now on," he thought dejectedly. "But what did she expect? The last I saw of her she was curled up in our bed sleeping peacefully. Her hair was wild and visible, as it always should be. The next thing I know she's wearing that horrid cap. God forgive me, but she reminds me of her mother. Oh, she has to get rid of that! But who am I to challenge her desires? If she really wants to start wearing one of those I am not going to tell her otherwise. At least I will not be distracted by thoughts of her during the day. My problems with concentrating on business are unfounded now. Bravo, Elizabeth. You have succeeded in distracting me from you." Darcy glanced at his wife (and her cap) and found her staring at him. He realized he had yet to reply. He cleared his throat.
"You are quite right. I have some pressing matters of business today. I find myself rather preoccupied. Forgive me, but I fear I must retreat to my study. I shall be stuck there for the remainder of the morning with my steward. Perhaps you could get yourself better settled in your new home. Jane is probably anxious to hear from you. I shall have Mrs. Reynolds show you to your study. You shall find ample sheets of stationery and a variety of pens. When it comes time to seal them, use this."
Elizabeth, even less convinced of her husband's ease, due to the forced nature of his reply, took the object in Darcy's outstretched hand. Looking down, she saw it was a seal. A border of tiny roses surrounded the initials EBD. All other thoughts were gone as she stared at the gift.
"Oh! Fitzwilliam it is beautiful! Why, I thought of changing names and houses but never of needing a new seal. Thank you so very much." She smiled up at her husband.
Darcy couldn't help but smile back. The look of love radiating from her eyes was enough to draw his attention from the cap. "I am glad you like it, my dear. Unfortunately, it is time for us to part company for a few hours time. Enjoy your morning. I shall look forward to luncheon."
Darcy stood, smiled at Elizabeth, and left the room. Once outside the door, he let out a shaky breath. His nose still hurt. With as much composure as he could muster, he walked quickly to his study, telling a servant along the way to summon his steward. Upon reaching his study, he shut the door and began to pace. Though it was rather early, he grabbed a glass and filled it with port. The events of the morning were too much and he felt he needed the drink to halt the fragmented thoughts running through his brain. How could his Elizabeth do such a thing?
At the same time, Elizabeth sat alone at the table. "How could he do such a thing?" she thought angrily. "He sprays tea out his nose, calls me Mrs. Darcy, tries to act nonchalant about the whole deal, does something so incredibly romantic, then pulls the shade over his emotions as he practically runs from my sight without even kissing me good-bye. Something is wrong with him and I will figure it out."
Darcy's steward, Mr. Winston, arrived as Darcy was finishing his last sip (gulp) of port. Raising an eyebrow, Winston queried of Darcy, "Port in the morning, sir? Drinking before business will not get you back to Mrs. Darcy sooner. Indeed, it will only prolong things, as you will be unable to concentrate, and I am positive that you will make some foolish decisions about the estate that will take even more time to rectify later."
Darcy glowered at his steward. "Winston," he declared rather loudly, "I am in no mood for teasing this morning. Let us just get to work."
Winston was surprised by this declaration, but pushed all thoughts to the back of his mind except those of business. The two spent the rest of the morning locked in the study.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth had been escorted to her own study. Thanking Mrs. Reynolds for her continued kindness toward her frequently lost new mistress, Elizabeth sat at her desk and pulled out some paper. Thinking for a moment, she picked up her pen and began to write her sister.
Dearest Mrs. Bingley,
Oh how I've longed to write that to you! Now that it is done I promise to address all my following letters to my Dearest Jane. Unless, of course, you prefer being called Mrs. Bingley.
How fares my dearest brother? It is my dearest wish that you and he are enjoying wedded bliss and are as agreeable as ever. It would appear that my own wedded state has erased my creativity for everything is "dearest" to me now. Having now thoroughly reprimanded myself, I continue.
Though we have been parted but one week, I find myself longing for your company. Oh Jane, what I would not give for your sound advice and constant comfort. Please, do not worry yourself about me. I am perfectly happy and well. I am a little distressed this morning, however. It would appear that after one week of kisses, loving looks, a shared bed (how improper of me. Please do not show this to mother!), and "Elizabeth," I have become a source of uneasiness for my husband. This morning he not only sprayed tea out his nose (yes, I speak of my Mr. Darcy and not of an imposter), but he called me Mrs. Darcy, didn't kiss me before practically running from the room, and could barely bring himself to look at me! How I wish you were here to comfort me. Do not despair, however, as I am sure he will tell me what is troubling him soon enough. The next letter you receive from me will more likely be of a happier tone and so sweet you will become ill.
Please tell me of all the news from Meryton and Longbourn. I am anxious to know what has occurred in the week since I departed. Has Mama kept up her promise (threat?) of visiting you every day? Oh dear, now you must really not let Mama read this! Burn it right away, as I am sure she will sniff it out eventually or demand to read it after she has discovered I have written you. Just remember that you and my brother Charles (I can call him that now!) are welcome whenever you need a vacation from the delights of Netherfield and your neighbors.
I must conclude now. I suppose I should acquaint myself with my duties as Mistress of Pemberley whilst Fitzwilliam meets with his steward.
Please write soon and I promise a quick reply. Until then, I remain
P.S. I've never signed that before. It does look well, does it not? By the bye, please notice the seal on this letter as it was given to me this morning by my husband, who was acting normal at the time.
Elizabeth reread her letter while the final bit of ink was drying. When she was satisfied that it neither told too much nor too little, she folded, addressed, and sealed the paper. Still troubled by Darcy's behavior, she stood up and walked to the window. She meant to think of ways to draw out whatever it was that was bothering him, but the view was enough to make her forget it all, if only for a moment. She stood simply admiring the grounds for a good five minutes.
Motivating herself to think again, Elizabeth determinately turned around to face the rest of her day. She decided she would find Mrs. Reynolds and begin training as Mistress of all she had just seen before her.
Morning passed quickly for the Darcys. Elizabeth, though the time did fly by, was relieved when it was over. Darcy, however, dreaded meeting with his wife and her cap again. During the course of the morning, all business with his steward had been concluded, but Darcy felt that an afternoon ride about his estate was needed. After all, it had been quite some time since he had devoted himself to the affairs of Pemberley and his tenants. Though Winston didn’t agree that this was necessary, he kept his thoughts to himself. It was clear to all that something was troubling Darcy but no one wanted to be the one to broach the subject.
Conversation at the midday meal was stilted and tension hung like a shroud over the room. After Darcy informed Elizabeth of his intention of riding out that afternoon, the tension thickened threefold. Elizabeth, however, tried to think of all she had learned in the course of the morning and decided to roam the halls of Pemberley until her husband returned.
After the meal, which was scarcely touched, Darcy took the letter to Jane, as he was to go to Lambton and would be able to post it, and left. After receiving a perfunctory kiss before his departure, Elizabeth’s melancholy turned to anger. She was becoming fed up with his behavior. With a slight flush to her cheeks, she began her tour of Pemberley. It goes without saying that she enjoyed all the rooms she visited but doubted she would ever see them, or any familiar rooms, ever again. She was hopelessly lost.
Darcy had set out for his ride with Winston in a bad mood. He could not conceive of his darling Elizabeth bowing to society and wearing a cap. It incensed him more than anything else had ever done.
After a few hours of viewing the estate and visiting some tenants, Winston and Darcy finally arrived in Lambton. Darcy walked into the post office and posted two letters. Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, Darcy had written his own missive to Charles Bingley. Once both letters were promised to be at Netherfield in two days time, he left the building and remounted his horse. He grudgingly announced that it was time for him to return to Pemberley for supper. Bidding each other farewell, Darcy and Winston departed for their respective homes.
By the time Darcy arrived, there was just enough time left to change for supper. Once again, the atmosphere in the dining room was tense. There was also the added sensation of anger this time. Neither spoke very much, and once dessert had been eaten, Elizabeth complained of a slight headache, and retired early.
Thinking a few hours solitude before her husband joined her was just what she needed, Elizabeth changed into her nightdress and took off her cap. Though they were flattened slightly, she smiled as her curls once again bounced about her face. She had dismissed Lucy when she came into the room, so she set at the task of letting down her hair. She decided to leave it down for the night, instead of braiding it, and left her dressing room for the bedchamber.
Luckily, during her rambles, Elizabeth had managed to stumble across the library. She had been there before and had marveled at the collection. On this visit, however, she had found a book that she had wanted to read for some time. She had brought it up and put it on the stand next to the bed. She now grabbed it and claimed a spot on the couch in front of the warm fire.
Three hours later, Darcy came into the bedchamber. He expected to find his wife asleep in bed, but to his surprise, she was curled up on the couch. He walked over to the couch and sat next to her. She wasn’t wearing her cap and her hair was down. He reveled in the sight of her hair.
“I take this as a sign that you are feeling better, my love,” he said in a low voice.
“You may do so,” she replied, “if it gives you comfort. I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours.” She had not looked up from her book once.
Darcy winced at the use of words he had spoken so long ago. He steeled himself and the said, “You are mad at me. Why? Is it because I was gone all day? I must apologize for that, but it was necessary. I had neglected my business affairs too long.”
At this, Elizabeth raised her eyes from the book. She looked at him a minute before speaking. “Yes, I am mad at you. And though I do not like the fact that you must be away all day long due to business, I understand the need. We shall both be busy tending to the estate. You need to keep Pemberley running, and I need to learn to be its Mistress. That is not why I am mad at you, however.”
“Then why, Elizabeth?”
“So I am Elizabeth again, I see. That is a change for the better. I am upset because of your behavior toward me at every single meal today. You have become the Darcy I first met in Meryton. You have barely noticed my existence until now. For one week you have been open with your love to me. You have kissed me before servants, and called me Elizabeth. Now everything is behind that abominable mask of yours. It feels like all of the passion in our relationship disappeared overnight.” At this, Elizabeth began to cry.
“Elizabeth, my darling, my love,” Darcy sighed as her moved closer to her and wrapped her in his embrace (which has been said to be warm). “I am so very sorry. I love you. I love you more than any thing or person in this world. I cannot defend my actions today without sounding foolish. I was so worried that I would not be able to distract myself from you long enough to get my work done. I am so truly sorry if I seemed cold. Retreating into my old familiar self seemed the best way to get your precious face out of my mind.” She had looked up during his speech. Her lips were far too close to his for any semblance of control on Darcy’s side. He leaned down and kissed her deeply. After some time, he raised his head and looked into her eyes. “Am I forgiven?”
Darcy then picked her up and carried her to their bed. He then proceeded to demonstrate to her that the passion had not disappeared at all, but remained stronger than ever.
The rays of the sun seeped through any available opening in the heavy velvet drapes. One such ray managed to find the face of a sleeping woman. The light cast on her features finally coaxed her out of a sound slumber. She stretched as she rolled over to gaze at the still sleeping form of the man beside her.
“My husband,” she thought with pride. Even after four weeks of waking up beside him, she still felt the same jolt of bliss. “I should have known not to believe Mama. I can never imagine locking him out of my room. I have not even slept in my room yet!” She grinned as she saw her husband open his eyes.
“Good morning, my dear,” he greeted her cheerfully. “You look lovelier than ever this morning.”
“Good morning, darling,” she replied, unable to keep the blush out of her cheeks. “I only look lovely because I am married to the most wonderful man in the world.”
He pulled her closer to him, chuckling. “I think your sister would disagree with you there.”
She laughed at the image of the playful argument between herself and her sister over who was married to the better man. “I do believe you are correct.” Suddenly her countenance became serious. “I am worried about her, Charles.”
“Dearest Jane, you shall see her in three days. For my part, I am convinced that by the time we get there all will be well.” Charles Bingley hoped he sounded more convinced of this that he actually was.
“I hope you are right. After that first letter, though, things have not seemed to improve. And I am not so blind that I cannot see how worried you are about Darcy. You must admit that neither of them sounds truly content in their letters.”
“Once again, my love, you have seen through me. I am worried about Darcy. I wonder why he is so adamant that we visit. I hope it is nothing more than a case of homesickness. You are still near your home and family. Elizabeth is so far removed from everyone.”
Jane sighed at the thought of her sister being so far away. She longed for a nightly conference with her sister. She also felt something else. Certain that Bingley was feeling the same thing, she decided to voice her emotions. “I am very glad that we are to go to Pemberley. The primary reason is, of course, to see my sister again. So much has happened in the past month and I miss talking to her.” At this point, Jane’s voice changed from wistful longing to mild annoyance. “I also cannot wait to be away from Mama.”
Charles laughed out loud as his wife said what he was thinking. “Surely, dearest, you are not tiring of your mother’s daily visits already?” He held his breath as he awaited her answer.
True to her character, Jane did not answer thoughtlessly. “As much as I hate to speak ill of any one, especially my own relations, I cannot help but feel exasperated with her. She is here for at least six hours every single day. I have never before been thankful for snow keeping people off the roads until now. When I discover that the roads are impassible, I rejoice! I do love Netherfield, but it has a flaw. It is too far from my dear sister and too near my dear mother.”
Charles Bingley let out a relieved sigh at this information. “Come, dear. Let us prepare for the day. There is much to be done if we are to be in Derbyshire in three days time.”
Meanwhile, many counties away, life continued at Pemberley. Unfortunately, life did not continue all too joyfully.
As much as he tried, Darcy could not be himself around Elizabeth while she was wearing that cursed cap. Three weeks had passed since that first day. Darcy swore he had yet to regain his full sense of smell. Indeed, his nose had hurt for a full week after “the incident,” as he preferred it to be called. At least that had been his excuse for being distant during the day. The second week had been difficult, but he claimed that there was a slight problem on the estate the required his attention (not a complete lie, as there was a minor problem, and Darcy’s interference made it worse, much to his joy). The third week was much better, as it brought the Gardiners and Christmas to Pemberley. Now that they were alone at Pemberley again, things were getting harder to deal with, but he dealt with them as he dealt with everything else. In all, Darcy was pleased with his efforts, and he now looked forward to the approaching visit of his new siblings, the Bingleys.
Knowing what we do about our title characters, it comes as no surprise that Elizabeth viewed things in a completely different light. She had written Jane three times since that first letter. None of the letters had been sickeningly sweet, as she had promised. She still donned that horrid cap (or one of them, for she had several) every morning. She was fed up and depressed that her husband was ignoring her during the daylight hours. Marriage was nothing like she had expected. She, too, was looking forward to the arrival of her sister and her husband. She found herself in need of Jane’s soothing words and (hopefully) sound advice.
If there was one thing that both Darcy and Elizabeth enjoyed together, it was the nights. At night, or more accurately after Elizabeth had taken her cap off, they could both be themselves. Darcy was back to being comfortable around the Elizabeth he had known before that horrid day she donned a cap. He could be himself around the woman who laughed at the confines of society. Elizabeth could relax and enjoy the Fitzwilliam she fell in love with and married. She enjoyed the Darcy who was not burdened with the affairs of the estate.
Things continued much as they had for three more days. Needless to say, both were overjoyed on the morning of the arrival of their dearest friends.
For the first time in three weeks Mrs. Darcy’s maid, Lucy, smiled. Expecting the usually resigned behavior she had come to expect from her mistress, Lucy had been pleasantly surprised at the rosy glow in Mrs. Darcy’s cheeks and the warmth in her dark eyes that morning. Mrs. Darcy had even sung quietly all throughout her toilette this morning! The last time Lucy had witnessed that was in the first week of her mistress’ marriage. Indeed, Lucy was thrilled that her employer had regained some of the spark that had seemed dulled by her marriage.
To Elizabeth, the day seemed interminable. Her elder sister was arriving today and she longed to speak to her. She looked once again to the clock on the mantle of the drawing room. “Three more hours I have to wait,” thought Elizabeth. “I hope they are not late. I hope Jane is as happy to see me. I hope she can help me find at least some happiness in my marriage.” Now even Elizabeth knew that the last thought was an exaggeration, but she couldn’t help feeling despair. She and Darcy had had a dream courtship, a perfect wedding, and an idyllic first week as husband and wife. We all know that neither Elizabeth nor Darcy are stupid, but we do know them to greatly misunderstand the other.
Elizabeth thought her husband had lost all interest in her except those involving conjugal duties and reading together in the library.
Darcy thought Elizabeth looked like her mother with that cursed cap.
Of course our hero and heroine could never solve such a simple problem so easily. Elizabeth blamed herself for entering into a marriage where, although they knew and loved each other, the husband changed right after the ceremony. Darcy was mad at Elizabeth for actually bending to society’s rules of cap-wearing. Both were afraid to say a word to each other, though, because they each thought their performance and expectations of their marriage would be reflected upon negatively. So, in silence, Elizabeth and Darcy stewed in their anger and self-pity alone. Needless to say, they each needed the council of their dearest (and sanest) friends who were to arrive shortly.
“I cannot wait to see Pemberley, my love!” exclaimed a very excited Jane. Indeed, the Bingley’s carriage had just rumbled past the gates of the Darcy’s great estate and was passing through some of the most beautiful forest ever seen.
“And all this time I thought you were excited to see your sister, not her estate,” teased Charles Bingley. This comment was met with a soft smile and even softer slap on the arm, if one could call it a slap. Early in their journey, he had thrown propriety to the wind and had seated himself next to his wife. What good was looking at your beautiful wife when you couldn’t hold her? “I do understand your excitement on seeing Pemberley, however. It is stunning.” Silence once again reigned over the coach as they traveled through seemingly endless wilderness. All at once they came upon a clearing. Bingley banged the roof of the carriage and told the driver to stop. Confused, Jane looked at her husband.
“Why have we stopped?” Since they were seated next to each other in a closed carriage, Jane had yet to see the view out her husband’s window. One look at her husband, who was pointing out said window, caused Jane to look.
She gasped loudly.
Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, her sister and brother-in-law were currently in a stopped carriage on Pemberley’s grounds. Had she known they had arrived already, she would have been running out to greet them. Had she also known that they were stopped in the exact location her uncle’s carriage had stopped the previous summer, where she herself had caught her first glimpse of the home she was now inside, she would have laughed. It was not to be, however, and Elizabeth was forced to wait an extra two minutes to be told of the approaching equipage.
Less than five minutes later, the sisters were embracing each other for the first time in over a month.
“Oh Jane!” cried Elizabeth. “I have missed you so. There is so much to tell, so much to ask, and ever so much to do!”
“Lizzy! You are a sight for sore eyes. Yes, there is much to tell.”
“Sore eyes, dearest Jane? Tell me my brother has not been making you read in the dark?”
“Oh, Lizzy, you have not changed. No, I am happier than I have ever been. My husband is very good to me. My mother is a different story.”
Elizabeth laughed at this rather blunt statement from her sister. Jokingly, she turned to her brother-in-law angrily. “Mister Charles Bingley, sir, you are a scoundrel. I thought you would be a good husband for our dear, sweet angel Jane but you have turned her into a regular human. Why, you have been such a bad influence on her that you even have her insulting her own mother. This is vexing. I must say I am rather upset. I lived with her for one and twenty years and never once did a bad thought come through those lips! You have spoiled our Jane! I dare say I am rather jealous.”
Laughing, Bingley hugged his sister and asked teasingly, “Jealous, are you? Pray, dear sister, why are you jealous?”
“I am jealous because I have been trying to get her to say something critical of my mother’s behavior for years. Then here you come charging in, marry her, and in under a month I see you have achieved my life-long goal.”
The entire assembled family laughed heartily at this reunion. The party spent the rest of the day getting the Bingleys settled in their rooms, eatting, sharing news from Hertfordshire, delivering a ten-page letter of advice and complaints to Elizabeth, taking a tour, and passing general admiration between the two couples. The Bingleys admired Pemberley, while the Darcys admired the marital felicity of their relations.
After dinner, the small party decided to uphold the custom of seperating the sexes. Elizabeth and Jane removed to the drawing room while Darcy and Bingley adjourned to Darcy's study.
Elizabeth heaved a sigh of relief as she lowered herself (gracefully, of course) onto a settee. “We finally get to talk. Come, Jane, and sit beside me. I want to hear all about your married life.”
Jane sat next to her sister with a faraway look in her eyes. “Charles is everything I could have dreamed of in a husband. He is kind, considerate, loving, and every perfect thing.”
“Now that, dear Jane, sounds heavenly. I did know, however, that you and Charles would have a flawless marriage.”
“Well, it hasn’t been flawless. We almost quarreled once.”
“Almost quarreled once? Goodness, Jane, that can hardly be considered a flaw. Tell me what happened.”
“I came into breakfast one morning wearing a cap. Charles looked shocked and asked me to remove it. I, of course, refused. I am the wife of Charles Bingley and cannot be going around starting gossip by not wearing a cap.”
“Jane, that hardly counts as a near quarrel.”
“And how do you know what a quarrel is like, Lizzy? I’m sure Mr. Darcy goes out of his way to make sure you don’t have reason to be upset.”
“I’m sure he does, too, Jane. That is, when he is not pretending I do not exist.”
“Surely you jest! He adores you, Lizzy.”
“Jane, do you remember when we first met Fitzwilliam in Hertfordshire? I am afraid that is who he really is. After only one week of marriage he retreated behind his mask. The only time he shows any affection is at the end of the day. We’ll be sitting together in the library reading and then the next thing I know, he’s kissing me, taking off my cap, and letting my hair down. Do you even know how many caps I’ve lost to the library fire? Sometimes I think he’s aiming for it instead of carelessly tossing it out the way.”
“Lizzy, Mr. Darcy is a busy man. Did you ever think that maybe he has to hide behind his mask every day?”
“He has told me that much himself. I do not believe him, though, as he remains cold and distant even when all the estate business is through and we have the afternoon to ourselves. I do not know how to say this, Jane, but the truth is I am miserable. Please, do not tell Mama or Papa about this. This is my lot in life and I am resigned to it.”
Jane looked at her sister’s sad eyes, trying to think of something appropriate to say. Nothing came to mind so she just moved to her sister and embraced her.
At the moment, a shattering sounds was heard behind them. Both women screamed and fell to the floor as something flew through the window and landed on the floor not five feet from the crouching ladies.
Meanwhile, Darcy and Bingley were sitting in Darcy’s study. Foregoing the usual after dinner port, Darcy headed straight to the crystal decanter filled with brandy.
Bingley, sensing something was preoccupying his friend, also accepted a glass of brandy. He knew Darcy would drink more if he did and also that Darcy would never reveal his troubles unless he was in his cups. Unfortunately for Bingley, he didn’t realize exactly how troubled his friend was.
Three glasses of brandy and ten laps of his study later, Darcy started to talk. “I love Elizabeth with all my heart, Bingley, but I think I do not like marriage.”
Bingley, who felt he had to keep up with his friend drinkwise, found this statement perfectly agreeable. “Of course, Darcy. Who would want their mother-in-law at their home every single day? Not I, that’s for sure.”
“What the devil are you talking about, old man? You are the one with the Mrs. Bennet infestation, not I. You make no sense. Here, have another.”
Bingley smiled and held out his glass for a refill. “Right, right. You just have a lovely wife, a beautiful home, and no family interference. I agree, marriage for you is horrid.”
“Oh be quiet and listen, Bingley. I do have a Mrs. Bennet problem. She’s here every single day in the form of my wife.”
Bingley let out a boisterous laugh. “Elizabeth is nothing like her mother, Darcy. She does not even look like her. You are empty again, my friend.”
Darcy looked at his empty glass in confusion. “Time for a refill. She does look like her mother. She wears a cap.”
“So does my Jane. I asked her once to remove it but she said no. Something about going against society’s rules and how people would think I married below me, or some such nonsense. I just ignore it now as best I can. Ugliest thing in creation, I tell you. What did Elizabeth say when you asked her to remove hers?”
“I did not ask her any such thing, Bingley. If she wants to wear it she can. She is not my Elizabeth when it is on, however.”
“Did you ever think she does not want to wear it anymore than you want to see her in one? I have been trying to think up ways to convince Jane that she need not wear one.”
Both men were silent for a little while, contemplating this. They raised their glasses to their mouths simultaneously. Looking at each other with surprise etched in their faces, they spoke at the same time.
Darcy refilled the glasses unsteadily. They were both silent as they finished their drinks once more. When conversation resumed it was with slurred voices.
“So, Bingley, what do I do? I tried burning all her caps but there are too many to go through.”
“Darcy, it cannot be easy to gather them up in your hands and bring them in here. I mean, it cannot be difficult. Of course it is easy. They are very small things. Like moles. Small things with ugly beady eyes that turn even the most beautiful of women into their mothers.”
Darcy nodded as if Bingley had just solved the problems of the world. Somehow, through the brandy induced haze, an idea was forming Darcy’s mind.
“Yes! That is the only way to get rid of the moles. Caps, I mean caps. Come, Bingley, let us put this plan into action.”
“What plan, old chap?”
Darcy, who was halfway to the door, realized he had yet to outline his plan to his friend. He walked back to Bingley and told him of his brilliant idea in an exaggerated whisper.
After Bingley nodded, they both stumbled for the door and took off in different directions.
“Jane are you well?”
“Yes, Lizzy. And you?”
“Scared. What was that?”
At that moment, the door flew open and two frantic looking footmen ran into the room. Mrs. Reynolds followed at a safe distance.
“Mrs. Darcy, are you and Mrs. Bingley well?”
“Yes, Mrs. Reynolds. We are just a little frightened, that is all. What was that?”
The entire group looked at the broken window and then down to the floor. Sticking out of the carpet at an odd angle was an arrow.
“Someone was shooting at us? Oh, Mrs. Reynolds, are our husbands safe?”
“I do believe so, madam. They went outside a few minutes ago.”
The implications of these words settled over the assembled group. With and glance at each other, Jane and Elizabeth bolted to the front door. Coming to halt in the middle of Pemberley’s courtyard, they listened for signs of their husbands and the shooters. A loud voice carried through the archway that led to the lake.
“That was awful, Bingley. Truly awful. You need to work on your aim.”
Lizzy sighed at this confirmation that her husband was safe. She ran through the arch with Jane hard on her heels.
“Fitzwilliam, you are well! We were so worried. Someone shot at Jane and I in the drawing room.”
“Elizabeth, my love. You are mistaken. No one shot at anyone. Bingley cannot control an arrow.” He eyed Lizzy’s cap with contempt. “How did you escape my notice, mole? Think I cannot see you. Think again.” He lunged for the cap and pulled it off Elizabeth’s head.
“What the devil are you thinking, Fitzwilliam? That really hurt.”
It was at this point that Elizabeth noticed her husband was carry his best rifle. “Fitzwilliam Darcy, whatever are you doing with that thing at this time of night? And what is in your pockets?”
Darcy looked at her as if she had a few screws loose. “Bingley and I are shooting moles, Lizabeth.”
Elizabeth and Jane looked at each other, astonished. Darcy shrugged and turned away. “Ready Bingley?”
“Of course, Darcy.”
Jane and Elizabeth watched as Bingley threw one of Jane’s caps in the air and Darcy shot it full of holes. Turning back to each other, they started to laugh.
“Is not funny, Lizabeth. Moles are horrible. Make you look like your mother.” He turned back to Bingley, pulled a cap out of his pocket, and threw it up in the air. Bingley let go of an arrow, which missed its target by a mile and landed in the lake.
By this time Jane and Elizabeth were laughing hysterically. Darcy turned back to them in confusion. “They do! Is not good at all. No more moles for you, my dearest. Do not care about society, only ‘bout your hair. You laugh at society but still wear a mole. No more mole and we laugh at society together.”
“So is this why you have been acting so cold to me, Fitzwilliam? You could have told me long ago. I hate those stupid caps as much as you! How much have you been drinking?”
Mrs. Reynolds, having witnessed some of the drama outside, stepped forward. “Excuse me, Mrs. Darcy, but this was full after dinner.” She held up a rather large and very empty decanter. “The port has not been touched. It seems they went straight for the brandy.” She shook her head ruefully at her master.
Darcy grabbed the decanter from Mrs. Reynolds hands and held it up. “Bingley we have a problem. No more. Everything is empty now.”
Bingley hung his head. “Not empty. Darcy, who drank your cellar?”
Jane spoke up. “You did, my dear. I take it you really hate caps as well?”
“Yes, Jane. Moles are awful.”
Elizabeth, who was rejoicing in the fact that her marriage was not a mistake, let her curiosity get the better of her. “Fitzwilliam, why are you calling them moles.”
He answered her like it was the most logical thing in the world. “Because caps, like moles, are ugly little things. And then there are the beady eyes.” Bingley nodded at this enthusiastically.
Jane, Elizabeth, and Mrs. Reynolds looked at each other and howled with laughter. Once they finally composed themselves, they helped the men back inside. Considering their husbands were on the brink of passing out, Jane and Elizabeth decided it was best to retire.
Elizabeth was woken in the middle of the night by her husband. “Elizabeth, are you upset with me again?”
“Why would I be upset with you?”
“Let me see here. I have been treating you with a cold indifference for three weeks now, did not talk to you about my problems with the caps, just got farther in my cups than ever before, and endangered the lives of you and your sister.”
“I am only upset because you would not talk to me about your feelings on the subject. That argument goes both way, though, as I never consulted your feelings on the subject. I also never took the hint when you threw my cap into the fire repeatedly.”
“What say you to putting this behind us. I love you, Elizabeth Darcy, and I want you to be deliriously happy.”
“I love you, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and I am deliriously happy. Go back to sleep. I think I will spend the rest of the night in my own bed.”
Darcy’s arm tightened around her waist. “Do not leave me, my love. I will only follow you there. Why do you want to sleep without me?”
Elizabeth grinned at him. “I do not want to sleep without you. I just do not want to be around in the morning when you wake up. I do believe you will be in a very sorry state indeed.”
“Only if you are not in my arms.” Darcy leaned down and kissed his wife.
Later, Elizabeth drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face and her husbands arms around her body. She had the perfect marriage.
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