Elizabeth and Darcy are married in this scene chosen by Ann Galvia. It is from Ann’s book, What’s Past is Prologue.
Although she had been praying to hear his sharp knock at the door, when it came, Elizabeth was nevertheless startled. She threw the door open. There in the passageway was Mr. Darcy. The weight that had been on her shoulders seemed to exit her body through her mouth in a sigh that made her lips curl up.
One of his long legs extended, stepping into her apartment, and his body followed, moving with a grace that was almost like a dance movement: he stepped, he brushed against her, and he was in her room. Elizabeth reached around him to shut the door.
He had come.
The insult she had half suspected—the deliberate withholding of information about her husband—fluttered out of her mind with a gentle nonchalance. The butterfly of her suspicions was finished with that slight and moved on to a different flower, one that she could not see and did not care about.
He had come.
He was so close. No residual smell of sweat or horse clung to him. The knot of his cravat made her think of a waterfall she had seen once in a book, the expert execution of the style boldly declaring that Darcy had not been forced to hurry through his dinner preparations. His posture was excellent, back straight and shoulders squared. But about his person, despite the immaculate presentation of his evening dress, the impression of exhaustion she had seen that morning lingered.
“I am pleased you have returned.”
Smiling, he asked, “Had you anticipated otherwise? Did you think, perhaps, I would take the opportunity I had been given to flee?”
She laughed. “Pleasure at your return does not imply that I thought you had abandoned me.”
Darcy’s smile faded. “You must wish we could all leave and never return.”
“Do not tell me what I must wish!”
His eyes searched her face. The hint of a smile returned to his lips.
“I understand why we must stay,” she continued. Darcy appeared diverted by his scrutiny, but it made Elizabeth feel a bit more serious. “I would never ask that you abandon anyone in need of aid.”
“I have considered sending you ahead to London and staying on myself until everything has been settled, but I cannot determine any satisfactory way of arranging it.”
“Of course not!” she cried. “What man could be satisfied to send his wife away? Times such as these are when you most need me to comfort you.”
He took his comfort by stepping even closer, placing his hands on her hips, and kissing her. When he pulled away, it was to a distance so slight that she did not bother opening her eyes. His breath puffed against her slackened lips as he murmured, “You are not wearing the scent I like.”
Elizabeth had laboured over whether she should wear the jasmine perfume he favoured. He must wish that she cater to his preferences, yet she wore that perfume to seduce him. Only this morning she had told him to make fewer demands. That expectation ought to stand for a day.
“I thought you could do without the temptation.”
His nose brushed hers then moved to her cheek. Her eyes stayed closed. She could feel his movements even in her eyelashes. “I do not,” Darcy breathed, “dislike this scent.” His mouth pressed against hers again, drawing out her lips.
She pulled away. Elizabeth looked to the clock. Eight minutes remained until they must proceed to the parlour. His amorous feelings appeared as ever to be his most pressing consideration, but there was no answering to that now. Even if they had the time, she would have been more interested in learning about the mission he had been sent on. “Tell me about Westerham.”
Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her neck. One of his fingers delicately ran along her clavicle. “It is a market town not far from here. Its importance to the local economy is primarily in the buying and selling of cattle.”
Elizabeth removed his hand under the guise of holding it. “Did you select a new steward?”
“Nothing is settled,” he confessed. “Lady Catherine’s understanding of the administration of an estate is too basic for anything but a particularly experienced steward. I blame myself for that. I am coming to understand that my excellent father lent more assistance than I had thought to offer these past six years. Mr. Preston, the estate agent I met with today, identified local men who might meet Lady Catherine’s needs. No one has been tempted away from his current position yet, but I suspect my uncle will use his considerable influence to achieve that once we have settled on a particular candidate.”
Influence. Elizabeth scowled. “Mr. Fitzwilliam was certainly pleased with himself, making you run off like he did.”
His amusement faded. Darcy sighed. “I am not surprised.”
“You would call such behaviour characteristic of him?”
“Not precisely,” Darcy said carefully. “I expect him to value Lord Wortley’s approval above anything else. As you have pointed out, cunning is something my people rarely attempt with success. His scheme today went off better than I would ordinarily expect, but I am sure its success can be attributed in no small part to the particular disgust my uncle appears to have for me at present.”
The source of that was easy enough to infer. “A disgust for me, you mean.”
“Lord Wortley has no patience and no approval for Lady Catherine. While it is true I did not expect him to be pleased by our marriage, I find it incogitable that this alone would have raised his ire to such heights. That crime has been augmented by the application for assistance on her ladyship’s behalf. If one overshadows the other, I am confident it is the latter.”
“She is his sister!” Elizabeth cried. “Can a man be so unfeeling?”
“It is my hope that, with time, you will grow as dear to him as any niece. Once you are, you will not find him unfeeling. He thinks himself slighted by Sir Lewis and is not one to forget anything he perceives as such, but one vagary does not indicate a complete lapse of good sense.”
“If I am an affront to him and his plans for you, he will not forget it and embrace me as a niece.”
This, Darcy protested. “I do not deny that he had plans for me, but they were of no benefit to him. It is entirely irrational for him to feel slighted. I have faith enough in his sense and judgment to believe he will see that.”
For a nephew to marry a niece might not benefit Lord Wortley, but there was another angry family member who was closer to one of the people in question. Every one of Lady Catherine’s plans for the future had included her daughter marrying a nephew.
“Perhaps,” Elizabeth said, the seed of an idea suddenly sprouting, “the thing to benefit everyone would be for Mr. Fitzwilliam to marry Miss de Bourgh.”
Darcy stared with such an expression as to indicate he found the suggestion ludicrous.
Her little sprout was hearty. “A match would solve everyone’s problems. Lady Catherine cannot mourn the lack of a son-in-law once she has one. Miss de Bourgh may have a family of her own. It seems that what Mr. Fitzwilliam really needs to improve his mind and his manners is distance from his father, which living at Rosings Park must grant. With a son of his here, Lord Wortley’s resentment for Sir Lewis could not persist as he would have the inheritance he wished for. Mr. Fitzwilliam probably does not have much money of his own, so Lord Wortley would still need to contribute, but I am sure he would be more pleased if his generosity were for the benefit of his son instead of his sister.”
Darcy shook his head. “It solves no one’s problems. I cannot consider for a moment that Anne would wish to be party to anything of the kind. As long as the funds needed to maintain Rosings Park are delivered, it hardly matters what feelings his contribution inspires in my uncle.” Almost to himself, Darcy added, “Regardless, I do intend to pay him back.” He would reimburse his uncle, Elizabeth observed, not Lady Catherine once she had recovered her finances. Darcy concluded, “and he would not approve of Tom’s marrying within the family.”
“He wished for you to marry within the family.”
“I cannot claim the same worth to Lord Wortley as his own children. He would have liked to have me marry Anne to keep her resources within the family, but Tom has a greater value.”
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. “You have more money than Mr. Fitzwilliam.”
The bloom of his pride was not diminished despite his explanation. “As an untitled gentleman, I am worth very little to the men who sit in the House of Lords. My ability to facilitate connections there was never great. As long as Tom is single, he can be used to tempt fathers in need of husbands for their daughters into friendship with Lord Wortley. Should he ever make a match, it will be when a friend requires extra inducement to vote correctly.”
“You make it sound so unlikely.”
“Lord Wortley will never make Albert agree to such a scheme, and Charles and Orlando are too young to be of use. A man is only good for a connection once, and then his value is depleted. My uncle should not like to lose his sycophant to such independence as the viscount enjoys. If he must, it will be for something of great significance.”
Affection born of blood and familiarity was powerful. Darcy’s words evoked contrasting images. He described his uncle as a man who treated his sons like pawns, but also someone she would not find objectionable, should he come to like her. Elizabeth was inclined to object very much to someone who treated his children like that. Yet her own parents had not been ideal. They set a poor example in both how to treat a marriage partner and how to raise one’s children. Elizabeth, although aware of it, had elected not to judge them for it. Affection mattered more than their faults.
Selective blindness was a requirement in every family, it seemed.
Elizabeth frowned but listened.
“My uncle’s ideal situation was not likely to ever come to fruition even if I were of a mind to obey. He would have had me marry Anne, unite our property, and pass it to our only child, a daughter, who would then marry his eldest grandson, thus consolidating all of our wealth on a single descendant of his. The birth of one male child—or even an extra daughter—would lead the whole scheme to ruin. He can hardly fault me for not trying.”
A man of rational judgment might not find fault in Darcy’s choices, but a man with hurt feelings, thinking himself slighted and disrespected, would. As long as the first flush of emotion was directing Lord Wortley’s actions, his particular disgust could manifest in harmful ways.
Offering balm to the perceived wounds of a man she never met was a foolish proposition. Instead, Elizabeth said, “You could make yourself politically valuable, you know. You could run for the House of Commons.”
He smiled. “Dearest Lizzy, the possibility you raise is, I fear, out of the question.”
She raised her eyebrows.
“If a man is to run for MP, he must force everybody to like him.”
She laughed, and by the hands that were still joined, he pulled her into the passageway.
What are your thoughts? Did you think Darcy and Lizzy were happy to see each other? Have you read What’s Past is Prologue? If so, tell us what you think. If you haven’t, we hope you will soon.
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