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A New Sense & Sensibility Audiobook!

Hello everyone,

I was browsing the internet for new Jane Austen posts and I came across this.

It is a brief video clip of Rosamund Pike talking about narrating a new audiobook of Sense & Sensibility.

It’s not very long but I enjoyed watching it and will be looking out to purchase the audiobook.

Martine xx

A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 28

A.N.

I hope you enjoyed chapter 27 and my post on Emma.

Here is the next instalment for you.

MJR xx

 

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

Elizabeth returned to her own room and began to prepare for bed. She washed her face, cleaned her teeth, and then brushed her hair one hundred strokes, yet still, she was not tired.

Reading was an excellent way to induce sleep, and so she sat in bed and picked up her book. However, she seemed to be reading the same sentence again and again.

In exasperation, Elizabeth tossed her book aside, threw back the blankets and slipped out of bed. As she pulled back the curtains the room was instantly flooded with pale moonlight that looked both magical and eerie. She perched herself on the padded cushions in the window seat and drew her knees up to her chin, then tugged at her nightgown until it reached her ankles.

It was not that she was cold, for the night still held a residue of warmth from the sunny day, but it somehow made her feel safe and secure.

It was her indecision that kept her awake, and Elizabeth knew this. There would be no rest for her until she had made up her mind whether to marry Mr Darcy or not. Once the decision had been made, there was then the task of telling him yay or nay.

She remembered when they first met, his arrogance and conceit had made her adamant that he was the last man on earth she could ever be prevailed upon to marry, but all that had changed; he had changed. Oh, not in the essentials, there was still the odd moment when his misplaced pride made an unwelcome appearance. But overall, he was a far better man now, than when they had first been introduced.

Elizabeth gave a huff on the glass and watched as her breath condensed forming an opaque patch on the window pane. With her index finger, she drew a heart shape and then traced out her initials, followed by Mr Darcy’s below.

The fact that Mr Darcy loved her she did not doubt, and she knew that she loved him. So, was it just her pride that had been bruised by his deception? If he had involved her in his plan to see Anne and Mr Galbraith married, would they still be in harmony? That she could never know, but what she did know was this; Lydia was a respectable widow because of Mr Darcy. Anne and Angus were even now on their wedding journey, because of Mr Darcy. And, her beloved sister, Jane, and Mr Bingley were again reunited and betrothed at the hand of Mr Darcy. Could she justify denying her own happiness purely because of the way he had brought these couples together?

Elizabeth looked deep into her heart that night, and she did not like what she found. For she discovered pride and anger and resentment residing there, and it pained her to discover this.

“How could I have been so blind, so unseeing and selfish?” She said aloud.

In that instant, Elizabeth knew what she wanted more than anything else in the world; she wanted to be his wife.

However, her protestation would have to wait until morning; it was after midnight.

She took one last look up at the night sky, sure sleep would now claim her. A carpet of twinkling lights, together with the light of the full moon stared back at her. The sun’s reflected light bathed the moon’s surface, which in turn covering the Longbourn estate in an eerie, almost translucent light, causing long shadows from the trees to be drawn on the ground and stretched across the grass until they kissed the house.

Elizabeth would be sad to leave here with all its familiar nooks, crannies, smells, and shadows, but if Mr Darcy would still have her, then Pemberley would soon be her home.

Lost in her own thoughts, Elizabeth’s attention was suddenly drawn to a sharp movement in the garden. Rubbing away her childish doodle, she screwed up her eyes and looked harder into the area of trees and shrubs that skirted Longbourn’s entrance. Shielding her eyes from the bright moonlight, she peered deeper into the shadowed area.

Someone was hiding in the bushes!

Darcy had tried to keep away, to give Elizabeth the time and space she needed to think, all the while believing she would arrive at a fair and just decision once she had considered all aspects of his actions.

He left his horse at the gates and made his way to the area opposite Elizabeth’s window. Between the moonlight and candlelight in her room, he could make out her figure sitting at her window. He watched as she raised her hand and etched out the shape of a heart, only to be further elated when she wrote his initials below her own. His own heart race at the thought of Elizabeth lining their names together romantically. He stepped forward, intending to call out to her, but the words died on his lips. What was he thinking? The hour was late, and the house was in darkness. Clearly, all were abed.

Stepping back towards the perimeter of the bushes, he hoped he had not been detected, but his actions were for nought. He watched as Elizabeth raised her arm and rubbed away the steam drawing, leaving the glass clear and her vision unobstructed.

She had been him. There was nothing for it now but for him to step out from the darkness and identify himself.

Two long strides brought him out into the clearing below her window. He removed his hat and turned his face skywards, giving the moonlight and Elizabeth ample time to reveal his identity.

Elizabeth drew in a shocked gasp. It was Mr Darcy. What was he doing coming to Longbourn this late at night?

Elizabeth unlatched her window as quietly as possible in a house as old as Longbourn, and gingerly pushed it open.

She popped her head out just far enough so that Mr Darcy could hear what she was saying without having to shout.

“What can you be thinking, sir? Go home this instant before you are discovered.”

The last thing Darcy wanted was to do was force Elizabeth into marriage by compromise. He only wanted her if she loved him for himself.

He lifted his arm and waved something in his hand.

Elizabeth closed the window and blew out her candle, hoping he would leave. Instead, he made his way to the front door.

Elizabeth could not contain her curiosity and opened her window again. This time, she leaned over the window ledge as far as she dared without falling.

He took the object in his hand and slipped it under the locked door.

Elizabeth suspected, to fit between the door and its frame, it could only be a letter.

A mixture of feeling engulfed her senses. She was excited that Mr Darcy had not been able to stay away, and she was eager to see what could be so important that he would risk all to deliver it in the dead of night. She also felt fear; what if it was a note of farewell. But the sense that overwhelmed her the most was intrigue. Just what was on that piece of paper?

Elizabeth watched and waited until Mr Darcy had made his way back to the trees where he had previously been standing. Then he began frantically jabbing in the air with one finger, pointing towards the door.

Clearly, he expected her to go downstairs and retrieve it.

Pulling on her dressing gown and slippers, Elizabeth went back to the window and raised her hand, instructing him to stay where he was. Then she relit her candle and crept out of her bedroom.

The house appeared to be in total darkness, and so as quietly as she could, Elizabeth made her way downstairs, avoiding any of the steps she knew were loose and might creak under her feet.

She drew near to the front door and instantly recognised what had been deposited under it.

Lying there, in stark contrast to the dark wooden floorboards, was a white piece of paper, neatly folded to conceal its contents.

Elizabeth carefully placed her candle on the side table, picked up the paper and unfolded it.

She held it closer to the flickering flame of the candle to illuminate the script.

The life that I have

Is all that I have

And the life that I have

Is Yours.

The love that I have

Of the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours!

Forgive me Elizabeth

 

Her spirit soared. It was beautiful and sad and wonderful and loving and… oh, it made her want to cry and laugh at the same time.

He loves me!

Was he was still standing in the garden, waiting for her to acknowledge his note or even expecting a reply? Now was the time to be completely honest. No more doubts, no more misplaced pride.

With no thought of her state of undress, her reputation, or the wrath her father would surely rain down upon them both should they be caught, Elizabeth pulled back the top and bottom bolts on the door and quietly open it.

Darcy saw the door open and took a tentative step forward out of the shadows, unsure of the reception Elizabeth would give him. He did not want to assume she had forgiven him, or that she even wanted to speak to him. But he hoped…yes, he hoped that she had. And that she did. Too often he had made rash assumptions where Elizabeth was concerned only to have them fall short of his unrealistic expectations.

Elizabeth, her eyes now accustomed to the moonlight, immediately spotted the outlined figure of Mr Darcy as he stepped out from the darkness.

It was brash and foolish and reckless and unwise, but she was following her heart, not convention.

She did not hurry to his side. Instead, she took slow and deliberate steps, full of meaning and promise.

Standing before him, she raised her eyes and look up at him through her long dark lashes. Lifting her hand, she cupped his cheek in her palm and gently caressed his face. The newly grown stubble on his strong jaw did not register on her soft skin.

“Fitzwilliam,” she whispered softly, “can you ever forgive me…”

Darcy stifled her next words as he smothered her mouth with his lips, seeking to reassure them both that they were once more in harmony.

Then, Darcy placed his hands on either side of Elizabeth’s face and preceded to deliver soft kisses on her eyes, her nose, her cheeks, and finally, her lips again. There was not a single part of her face that did not benefit from his ministrations. His feather-light caresses caused Elizabeth’s body to quiver with delight and anticipation and Darcy obligingly pulling her closer.

“Elizabeth…my love,” he whispered, as he buried his face in her long soft curls. “How I have dreamt of this day, longed for this day, that I might hold you in my arms and tell you how very much I love you…”

Elizabeth wound her arms around his neck and leaned into his embrace, tilting her face upwards, offering her lips to him. An invitation he was only too happy to accept.

They clung to one another for several seconds before he broke away.

“My darling, my own sweet love, it is I who must beg your forgiveness.”

Elizabeth brought her hand to his mouth and placed a single finger on his lips, silencing the words he was about to say.

“We must both promise to never deceive one another again, Fitzwilliam. And from this moment on, we will never speak of this again. Of my pride and your…” she hesitated, reluctant to use the word that sprang to mind.

“Deceit,” he said it for her.

Elizabeth smiled, “It will be a thing of the past.”

“I will never do anything to endanger our love again,” Darcy promised as he placed a soft kiss on her fingertip.

Gazing into her eyes, made all the brighter for the reflected moonlight, Darcy knew his heart was lost forever, destined to love Elizabeth for all eternity, like Anthony and Cleopatra, or Romeo and Juliet, but God willing, theirs would be a long and happy union.

“Elizabeth, I want to…”

Suddenly, Darcy stiffened, and his arms dropped to his sides.

Instinct told Elizabeth they had been discovered.

“Elizabeth, get inside at once.”

Elizabeth waited until she had walked past her father before glancing over her shoulder at Mr Darcy. Then she disappeared from his view as she entered the house.

Taking a step towards the understandably very irate Mr Bennet, Darcy thought to explain their actions and take all the blame upon himself.

“Sir, I know how this must look but…”

“Do not think to make light of this incident, sir. You will be in my study at ten in the morning. Now get off my property!” With that, Mr Bennet turned on his heels and went inside. It took all his restraint not to slam the door shut, thus making his displeasure known to both Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, but with the rest of his family already abed and likely asleep, he closed it quietly and pulled the bolts back into place.

Elizabeth stood shamefaced in the hall as she waited for her father to return. Yes, she had been reckless, but in her eyes, there were extenuating circumstances.

After he entered the house, Mr Bennet walked straight past Elizabeth. He never even gave her a second look before entering his study. He correctly assumed she would follow him in, and then he closed the door behind them.

He walked over to the fireplace and immediately began to pace back and forth.

Elizabeth shivered. Her summer night clothes afforded her little warmth, and with no fire in the grate, it was decidedly chilly.

Mr Bennet’s initial reaction had been one of rage. On each turn as, he paced to and fro, he tossed Elizabeth a look of disapproval. He felt engulfed by shock and disappointment.

Elizabeth was his favourite child, the brightest, the wittiest, and the most sensible of the bunch. She was the only one of his children he could spend any length of time with in equanimity. The younger girls looked up to her, and he had always been confident in her setting a good example for them to emulate. Lydia, he thought, had at least had the good sense to elope before flinging herself into the arms of her lover.

Elizabeth was in the wrong, and she knew it. Her rash behaviour might have ruined everything. Her reputation, her father’s good opinion of her, and even her betrothal. She was not yet one and twenty, and her father could still withdraw his consent to her union with Mr Darcy. Even she viewed her actions as foolish and ill-advised. But worse, she had let everyone down. Let her father down, let Lydia down, and let herself down. She had put her dear papa in an awkward position, and he did not deserve it. He had always shown her great tolerance and leniency, especially where her cousin was concerned. If it had not been for her father interference, she might now be Mrs William Collins!

Emma Woodhouse, Mr Knightley & Harriot

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Gwyneth Paltrow-1996, Kate Beckinsale-1996, and Romola Garai-2009.

This is the first line of Jane Austen’s Emma.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

It gives us, the reader, only a very brief description of the title lead in this novel. Jane uses just 40 words to describe Emma. As JA does not go into specific’s about Emma’s physical appearance, (she does not say, Emma is blonde haired, blue-eyed, slender, or of average height), we are given free rein to imagine Emma in any way we choose. This lack of detail has given the TV companies and film producers creative licence to cast whomever they please in the title role.

Above, are three of my favourite Emma Woodhouse actresses. (Though my very favourite version is Gwyneth and Jeremy).

JA also wastes little time or effort on describing Mr Knightley, saying only;

“Mr Knightley, a sensible man of about seven or eight-and-thirty, of a cheerful manner. A man who has nothing of ceremony about him.” 

However, we can also determine from remarks made in the first chapter that he is an honest man, a rich man and a good walker .

So, other than being of a suitable age, producers again had no restriction on who they picked to play the part of Mr Knightley.

These are the Mr Knightley’s for the three Emma’s above.

How do you think they did?

Jeremy Northam-1996, Mark Strong -1996, and Jonny Lee Miller-2009.

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Next, we come to Emma’s young protégé, Miss Harriot Smith.

“Miss Smith was a girl of seventeen, whom Emma knew very well by sight, and had long felt an interest in, on account of her beauty. Miss Smith was a very pretty girl, She was short, plump, and fair, with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness, Emma was as much pleased with her manners though, Emma was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Miss Smith’s conversation.”

Here, Jane Austen gives us a fairly detailed description of Miss Smith. Short, plump, light hair, blue eyes, sweet-natured, not very clever, but very pretty.

If you look at the corresponding Harriot Smiths below, I can’t quite see why they cast Toni Collette, who had red hair at the time, as the ‘light haired’ Miss Smith, although she does fit several of the other required criteria’s.

With Jane’s description of both Emma and Miss Smith, do you think it possible that she meant for Harriot to be prettier than Emma? Also, do you think it was possible Jane was drawing on her own friends or relations as a basis for the characters? I think it highly likely that she was; Jane had several nieces and nephews.

Miss Smith might have been based on her niece, Fanny Knight, and I definitely think Frank Churchill was based on her own brother, Edward. For Edward Austen was also adopted by a rich cousin who had no children; Thomas & Catherine Knight. Edward took their name, went on the Grand Tour and inherited the vast Knight estate on their death. This estate included a house and cottage in Chawton. Today, we know the big house as Chawton House Library, and the cottage as The Jane Austen House Museum.

Toni Collette-1996, Samantha Morton-1996, Louise Dylan-2009.

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I have watched each of these productions many times over. After Pride & Prejudice, Emma is my next favourite Jane Austen novel.

I like how Jane Austen has captured the essence of life in the regency era, along with all the things she found silly and whimsical.

Each version, whether it be a TV series or film, transports the viewer back in time to an era when society could boast of gentle manners and shy courtship. This style of courtship was later described as the dance of love. (I love it). It comes over as sweet and innocent and was often conducted over a long period of time. Sometime, as described in Pride & Prejudice, a couple would be betrothed when they were in their infancy. (My, how times have changed.)

Nevertheless,, Jane does not shy away from the darker aspects of regency life. She describes events that are still pertinent in our own society.

“How the trampers might have behaved, had the young ladies been more courageous, must be doubtful; but such an invitation for attack could not be resisted; and Harriet was soon assailed by half a dozen children, headed by a stout woman and a great boy, all clamorous, and impertinent in look, though not absolutely in word.—More and more frightened, she immediately promised them money, and taking out her purse, gave them a shilling, and begged them not to want more, or to use her ill.—She was then able to walk, though but slowly, and was moving away—but her terror and her purse were too tempting, and she was followed, or rather surrounded, by the whole gang, demanding more.”

First, she describes the physical attack on Harriet, proving it was not always safe for single young ladies to venture out alone, even if very close to one’s home.

Then, though more subtly, Jane regales us with details of the snobbish and prideful encounter’s Emma, Frank Churchill, and Mr Elton have with their less fortunate neighbours. As she describes their actions, she leaves us, the reader, to pour scorn on her characters.

Example;

Emma gleefully gossips with Frank Churchill about Jane Fairfax, mocking her lowly status as a governess, while implying that she might have left her last position due to a liaison with her employer, Mr Dixon. This action on Frank’s part are made all the more intolerable when we later discover that he was actually engaged to Jane at the time, and knew full well where the piano came from. It was sent to Jane by Frank, as a token of his love for her. Later in the plot, when we discover his duplicity, Emma is incensed, and rightly so.

“I do not mean to reflect upon the good intentions of either Mr. Dixon or Miss Fairfax, but I cannot help suspecting either that, after making his proposals to her friend, he had the misfortune to fall in love with her, or that he became conscious of a little attachment on her side. One might guess twenty things without guessing exactly the right; but I am sure there must be a particular cause for her choosing to come to Highbury instead of going with the Campbells to Ireland.”

Emma embarrasses and hurts Miss Bates with an unguarded remark during the picnic at Box Hill. It is not until Mr Knightly berates her for her unkindness that she really feel the error of her ways. Emma has forgotten that Miss Bates was once her equal, but her circumstances have changes and she will only get poorer the longer she lives. With no husband or children to talk to, and only her mother for company, she had developed the habbit of talking incecently. I can tell you that I have beenin situations where I longed for a Miss Bates to break a pregnant pause in conversation! What about you?

FRANK; Ladies and gentlemen—I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse to say, that she waives her right of knowing exactly what you may all be thinking of, and only requires something very entertaining from each of you, in a general way. Here are seven of you, besides myself, (who, she is pleased to say, am very entertaining already,) and she only demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated—or two things moderately clever—or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at them all.

MISS BATES; “Oh! very well,” exclaimed Miss Bates, “then I need not be uneasy. ‘Three things very dull indeed.’ That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I? (looking round with the most good-humoured dependence on every body’s assent)—Do not you all think I shall?”

Emma could not resist.

EMMA; “Ah! ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me—but you will be limited as to number—only three at once.”

Miss Bates, deceived by the mock ceremony of her manner, did not immediately catch her meaning; but, when it burst on her, it could not anger, though a slight blush shewed that it could pain her.

“Ah!—well—to be sure. Yes, I see what she means, (turning to Mr. Knightley,) and I will try to hold my tongue. I must make myself very disagreeable, or she would not have said such a thing to an old friend.”

Emma’s attempt at matchmaking between Mr Elton and Harriot Smith sees him declare himself far above Miss Smith’s station in life, and he brushes aside Emma’s attempt with scorn and derision.

“Good Heaven!” cried Mr. Elton, “what can be the meaning of this?—Miss Smith!—I never thought of Miss Smith in the whole course of my existence—never paid her any attentions, but as your friend: never cared whether she were dead or alive, but as your friend. If she has fancied otherwise, her own wishes have misled her, and I am very sorry—extremely sorry—But, Miss Smith, indeed”

Next, we find Emma using her influence over Harriot, as her social superior, to encourage her to refuse Mr Martin’s proposal, when Harriot really wants to accept.

Harriot to Emma;

“What sort of looking man is Mr. Martin?” “Oh! not handsome—not at all handsome. I thought him very plain at first, but I do not think him so plain now. One does not, you know, after a time. But did you never see him? He is in Highbury every now and then, and he is sure to ride through every week in his way to Kingston. He has passed you very often.”

Emma’s reply;

“That may be, and I may have seen him fifty times, but without having any idea of his name. A young farmer, whether on horseback or on foot, is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity. The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do. A degree or two lower, and a creditable appearance might interest me; I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or other. But a farmer can need none of my help, and is, therefore, in one sense, as much above my notice as in every other he is below it.”

We live in a society where for the main part, we are able to court and marry whom we wish, but in the era Emma is set, it is clear that matrimony is not just as simple as falling in love, far from it. Social standing, connections, wealth, as well as appearance and accomplishments all counted.

Although I often think I was born 220 years too late, I am thankful that some rules in the modern world have changed for the better.

All in all, I think Emma is a happy story, one that never fails to lift my mood, whether I am reading it, watching it or listening to it on my iPod.

Till next time,

Martine xx

 

A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 27

A.N.

Something for the weekend? Another chapter maybe?

Well, as it’s looking like a wet weekend here in the UK, I thought I would try to entertain you for a little while at least.

So, here is your second installment for this week. Only 4 more to go so stay tuned to see how things turn out.

 

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Elizabeth flung the door of her father’s study wide open and stood there, her breathing heavy from the exertion of leaving Darcy.

“Is it true? You knew of Mr Darcy’s deception and kept it from me?”

Mr Bennet had expected this. He had kept the truth from her, and it did not sit well with him. However, beloved daughter or not, this was no way for a daughter to behave towards her father.

He removed his spectacles and placed them on his desk before leaning back in his chair.

“Come in, Elizabeth.” His tone was firm and slightly sardonic.

Elizabeth closed the door and stood before her father’s desk. Her arms folded across her chest in a defensive stance.

“Sit down.”

“Thank you, sir, but I prefer to stand.”

“You have spoken to Darcy and now come to remonstrate with me. You are angry at having been deceived. I understand that, but I am your father and the head of this family. I make the decisions in this house, for the good of the house and its occupants.” His tone softened noticeably. “I could see from the moment you returned from Derbyshire, that you had changed. It became even more evident when Mr Darcy came to call. You looked on him with tender eyes, Lizzy. So, when he came to me and told me of his plight, I took pity on the lad. He loves you, Lizzy, and you wore your love for him like a badge on your bonnet. And yet you denied it.”

Elizabeth did not want to be patronised, she was angry and wanted to vent that anger on the people that had lied to her.

“I could not accept him before, Father. You know I could not!”

“And what stood between you that was so insurmountable? His wealth? His generosity? Or maybe it was your pride, Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth opened her mouth to refute his accusation, but Mr Bennet gave her no opportunity to reply.

“Now, Lizzy, I made my decision on the facts set before me and I stand by it. Mr Darcy has revealed his duplicity in the matter, and you should find it in your heart to forgive him. His motives were honourable.”

“Father!” she exclaimed in vexation.

“Enough now, Lizzy, the matter is closed. Unless you desire to break your engagement and your poor mother’s heart, I suggest you go to your room and ponder your prospects before you do anything rash.”

Elizabeth ran upstairs and slammed the bedroom door behind her. Pacing to and fro, she muttered about how easily men lied and how women were expected to forgive them the moment they confessed. Deceit should carry a consequence, not be rewarded!

A few minutes passed with Elizabeth pacing in this manner until her thoughts were interrupted by someone gently tapping on her door.

“Lizzy, it’s Jane? May I come in?”

If anyone could understand her anger and frustration, it was Jane.

“Yes, Jane, come in.”

Jane entered and then waited for Elizabeth to be still.

“Did you hear what Papa said to me, Jane?” Elizabeth asked indignantly.

Jane crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed.

“Yes. Mamma was going to come and speak to you, but Father sent me instead.”

“Well, she would not have changed my mind, and neither will you, Jane.”

The calming softness of Jane’s voice eased some of Elizabeth’s tension, and she moved to sit on the bed with her.

“You have made your decision then?”

“I cannot marry a liar, Jane. I would never have a minute’s peace of mind. Never knowing if he spoke the truth or not. I cannot be expected to live like that. Mr Darcy is a hypocrite. He told me he abhorred deceit of any kind. Yet it is perfectly acceptable for him to involve me in a lie!”

Jane knew what she must do. The memories of those months she believed she had been abandoned by Mr Bingley were the most painful of her life. The utter desolation she felt when she thought him lost to her had been almost crippling, both physically and mentally.

“Lizzy, when Mr Bingley left Netherfield last winter, I thought my heart should break. I could not imagine my life without him in it, and yet I had too. I went to London in the hope that I might run into him, believing that if he just saw me again, he would realise he loved me still. But it was not to be. I had to resign myself to never knowing absolute happiness again.”

Elizabeth squeezed Jane’s hand.

“But Mr Bingley did love you, Jane. He did come back to you.”

“Yes, but it was Mr Darcy who gave him the courage to return and seek me out.”

Jane watched as Elizabeth’s mouth turned downwards into something akin to a petulant sulk, but still, she continued.

“When Anne De Bourgh needed someone to help her, she turned to her cousin, Mr Darcy. He did not turn her away, knowing he would incur the wrath of Lady Catherine. Instead, he brought her to a place her mother would not find her and helped her marry the man she loved.”

“Yes, yes, Jane. I know of all Mr Darcy’s wonderful qualities, but he lied to me, don’t you see? How could I ever trust him again?”

“Oh, Lizzy, it is not possible to go through life telling nothing but the absolute truth. Even we have told the occasional lie, Lizzy. Did we not tell mamma that we went straight to the haberdashers last week, knowing full well that we stopped for refreshments at Aunt Philips? And when Lydia asked to borrow your amber necklace, you told her it was misplaced because you were concerned she would lose it. Yet we both know you hid it in my jewellery box for safe keeping. Dearest Lizzy look at the happiness Mr Darcy’s deeds have brought. Lydia and Wickham married, Miss De Bourgh and Mr Galbraith on their wedding trip, and Mr Bingley and I are betrothed. He has done nothing malicious, Lizzy.” Jane smiled, and leant closer to say, “If anything, I would say he is something of a matchmaker.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips in a rueful smile. Mr Darcy, the matchmaker. She conjured up a ridiculous image in her mind of Mr Darcy introducing prospective couples to each other while their mothers stood in the background waving hands full of money.

“Oh, Jane, it’s not just that. It’s the fact that everyone seemed to know about it except me. He had made a fool of me.”

Jane got up and walked to the door, but before she left, she turned to Elizabeth with one last observation.

“Do you love Mr Darcy any less for his kindness, Lizzy, or is your pride more important than being happy?”

Elizabeth stared at the closed door. Jane had also accused her of being prideful. Could it really be that simple? Was it only her bruised pride that made her rally against Mr Darcy? Indeed, when he bruised her pride at the Meryton Assembly, has she not grasped at Mr Wickham’s tale of woe with alacrity? Was she only in this situation now, because she had been stubborn and disinclined to forgive?

Her anger and frustration had turned to confusion and self-reproach, making her head hurt and draining her body of its energy. Unable to think straight anymore, Elizabeth knew there was only one way to relieve the tension headache that was now afflicting her.

Pulling her pillow towards her, Elizabeth rested her head on it and curled her legs up on the bed.

When Jane returned with a cup of tea for her sister, that was how she found her, curled up in the middle of the bed, asleep. Jane quietly closed the door behind her and returned downstairs.

Elizabeth roused when she heard Lydia and Kitty arguing. They were squabbling over who should take her place at the dinner table if she remained in her room. Giving her eyes a rub, Elizabeth slipped off the bed and straightened her dress before opening the bedroom door.

“There is no need for you two to argue. I will be down for dinner as soon as I have splashed some water on my face.”

“I just thought as I am a married woman, I should take your seat Lizzy,” snipped Lydia.

“But as I am a full two years older, it should be me!” replied Kitty.

Elizabeth closed the door and rested back on it. She would really have preferred to eat in her room tonight, but Mr Darcy was expected. Yet how could she face him? She had still not determined whether to break their engagement or not.

After washing her face and changing her dress, she smoothed her hair back into place and went downstairs.

As usual, they gathered in the drawing room until the butler announced dinner was ready. Tonight, seemed no different. However, when Elizabeth entered, she saw only Mr Bingley. Darcy and the Colonel were conspicuous by their absence.

Elizabeth joined Jane and Mr Bingley on the divan by the window. The warm summer breeze flowed in through the open French door, a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun.

“Miss Elizabeth, I have been commissioned to pass on a message to you from Mr Darcy. He regrets that he is unable to attend this evening’s festivities and begs your forgiveness,” Mr Bingley’s statement sounded slightly rehearsed, but he was relieved to have executed its delivery.

Elizabeth was more than slightly surprised to hear that her intended had cried off from seeing her that evening. She thought he had more mettle than that.

“And the colonel, does he keep Mr Darcy company this evening?”

“Unfortunately, not, Miss Elizabeth. Colonel Fitzwilliam left for London this morning. He is to escort Miss Darcy back to Hertfordshire.”

“Miss Darcy?”

“Yes, she is coming to stay at Netherfield for few days, maybe even a week or two, if she can be persuaded.”

Elizabeth turned her gaze to Jane. What could he mean by bringing his sister to Netherfield? Did he wish to add Miss Darcy’s argument to his own in persuading her to forgive him?

Jane answered Elizabeth’s unspoken question with a discrete shrug of her shoulders.

Elizabeth turned back to Mr Bingley.

“I hope Mr Darcy is not unwell, sir?”

Mr Bingley felt most uncomfortable. His friend had confided in him all that had transpired between himself and Miss Elizabeth, and now he could not help but feel responsible. After all, it was at his suggestion that Darcy concocted this ruse.

“I am sure…well, fairly sure, that he will be sufficiently recovered to return on the morrow, Miss Elizabeth.”

At that point, the butler entered and announced dinner was ready to be served.

Elizabeth could feel her parent’s displeasure. Though they said nought, the looks she received from her mother conveyed how angry she was, while her father chose to ignore her presence altogether. It was left to Lydia to raise the matter.

“I saw Lizzy with Mr Darcy in the garden today, and she was being beastly to him.”

“Lydia!” Elizabeth said reproachfully.

Silence ensued. All eyes looked to Elizabeth; all except for Mr Bennet.

“If you have had your fill of the food, Lydia, I suggest you go to your room,” said Mr Bennet.

But Lydia would not be silenced.

“Has he thrown you over, Lizzy? Is that why he is not here tonight?”

Jane now exclaimed, “Lydia!”

“Go to your room this instant, young lady!” Mr Bennet ordered.

“But I am a married woman. You cannot treat me as if I were a child;”

Mr Bennet pushed back his chair and stood up. He threw down his napkin and addressed Lydia directly.

“Married and widowed you may be, Lydia Bennet, but inside you are still a troublesome and disobedient child. Marriage has not taught you to hold your tongue nor the meaning of discretion. Now go to your room and while you are there think about what I have said!”

Lydia looked around the room. Usually, she relished being the centre of attention, but she was mortified at being chastised in front of Mr Bingley.

Trying to fight back the tear, she stood up and walked towards the door. But not before she had the final word.

“My name is Lydia Wickham.” And with those parting words, she closed the door behind her.

Mr Bennet sat down and tucked his napkin back into his collar. He had no intention of wasting good food, nor of going hungry.

“The beef is particularly tender tonight my dear. Remind me to compliment the cook in the morning,” he said as if nothing had happened.

Lydia’s outburst was apparently to be ignored. But Elizabeth thought, for once, that she had been treated harshly. Lydia had only voiced what everyone else was thinking.

Whether this softening towards Lydia’s outspoken behaviour was due to Elizabeth’s disapprobation with her father, no-one knew, but Elizabeth resolved to go and speak to her sister as soon as it was politely possible to excuse herself.

Elizabeth tapped on Lydia’s door, but when no reply was forthcoming, she pushed it open and begged for permission to come in.

“What do you want Lizzy?” Lydia asked sulkily.

“I brought you this.” Elizabeth held out a buttered roll that had a thick slice of ham between its folds.

Lydia’s hunger overtook her bad mood, and she gratefully took the food from Elizabeth’s hand.

With her mouth full of ham and bread, Lydia motioned for her sister to sit with her.

“What are you doing up here?” she managed to ask as she masticated an unusually large bite.

“Well, I came to say sorry. I think Father dealt with you harshly tonight because he is displeased with me. Although, you must learn to think before you speak, Lydia. The dinner table was not the place to ask such a personal question, nor in the presence of company.”

“But Mr Bingley is going to be family, Lizzy.”

“Yes, but he is not yet family. You must learn to hold your tongue and have better manners. You are no longer a child, Lydia.”

“I do try, Lizzy, honestly I do, but it is so hard trying to be…well you!”

For the first time, Elizabeth realised that Lydia looked up to her as a role model. This revelation came as something of a shock.

Suddenly, she saw Lydia in a different light. No longer the annoying little sister, but a young girl learning to be a woman.

Rather than chastise her efforts, Elizabeth realised she must aid her sister’s transition.

“If you would like, I can help you, Lydia?”

Lydia turned to Elizabeth with wide eyes and struggled to swallow the food in her mouth, before saying, “But not like a teacher, with punishments if I get it wrong.”

“No, there will be no punishments, Lydia, but I may have to ask Jane to help too?”

“But why must Jane know? Why must anyone else know?”

“Lydia, soon I will be married and gone from this country. If…”

“So, you are going to marry Mr Darcy, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth could not lie, not after all the fuss she had made about Mr Darcy deceiving her.

“I…I am not sure, Lydia. I think we must talk before I make the final decision. But until then, I am here to help you. Now, the first thing you must do is apologise to Papa. Wait until Mr Bingley returns to Netherfield and then go down and make your peace with our Father.”

Lydia looked down at the floor and began studying the pattern on the carpet as if her life depended on it.

“Do you want my help Lydia, or not?”

Lydia glanced at her sister from under her lashes and nodded.

“Good, that’s settled then. Good night, Lydia.”

“Good night, Lizzy, and…thank you.”

p.s.

My dear friends, as you know, both here and on FanFiction, I have posted all my books entirely free of charge, hoping fellow enthusiasts would enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. This is something I firmly believe in doing. You are always appreciative and honest, helping where I might not see something that needs correcting or spotting something that does not flow quite as smoothly as it could. This two way street is much appreciated by us indie authors. However, I was wondering if any of you would be open to posting a review on my books on Amazon? There is a lot of competition in my genre and the more reviews you get the more your work gets out there. No purchase is necessary to leave a review, so, I humbly ask that if you have enjoyed any of my books, that you leave me positive review. Of course, if you would rather not, please don’t feel pressured to do so, but every little helps.

Thanking you so much,

Till next time,

Martine xx

 

A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 26

A.N. Here is the next exciting installment of; A Love Most Ardent.

I expect the last chapter might have given you a clue as to what might happen in this one, but are you right?

Be honest and leave a comment telling me if you predicted what would happen next.

Martine x

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Six

The sun was going down before the visiting gentlemen thought to take their leave. The good Reverend had gone to his home some time ago, and Colonel Fitzwilliam waited outside while Jane and Mr Bingley, and Elizabeth and Mr Darcy said their farewells.

Charles shyly kissed Jane on the cheek, then with the promise to return in time for breakfast, went to wait with the colonel.

Darcy sought Elizabeth’s hands and stood gently caressing them with his thumbs.

“This is, without doubt, the happiest day of my life. Thank you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.”

“I hope we will have many more such days, sir.”

Darcy leant closed, willing to risk discovery for just one more taste of her sweet lips.

“Yes, well, get along now, Elizabeth. Your mother is looking for you. Something about a double wedding,” chimed in Mr Bennet.

Darcy straightened and had the good grace to blush. Taking liberties with ones intended was frowned upon by one’s prospective fathers-in-law, especially should you be caught.

“I am expecting my man of business to call on me in the morning, but I will come in time for luncheon,” Darcy said, then made his bow and joined the Colonel and Bingley as they made their way to the stables.

Mr Bennet had mixed feelings about losing both his sensible daughters, but he would feel the loss of Lizzy the most. They had spent many an afternoon or evening in companionable silence, either reading a book or perusing the day-old papers Mr Gardiner sent them from London. Only Elizabeth shared his keen sense of the ridiculous and was unafraid to speak her mind. Qualities he admired in a sensible woman. Yet soon she would be gone to Derbyshire.

Slipped her hand through the crook of her father’s arm, Elizabeth gave it a reassuring squeeze. She sensed that she was the reason for his melancholy mood.

“I am going to get a plate of cold meat before Mrs Hill has it cleared away. Shall I get you one too, father? We could eat it together in your study.”

“Thank you, Lizzy. And if you can slip me one of the cook’s blancmanges too, it would be much appreciated.”

Mr Bennet waited at his study door to help Lizzy in.

As soon as she passed through the portal, Mr Bennet closed the door behind her.

“Did your mother see you?” he asked.

Elizabeth shook her head.

“Good. It’s just that I have already eaten two of cook’s flummeries. I would not want Mrs Bennet to know I’d had a third.”

“Mamma has retired for the evening, Father. You are quite safe.”

Mr Bennet sat at his desk but turned to face Elizabeth, who sat by the open window, as they tucked into their illicit supper.

“So, Lizzy, I presume everything is settled between you and Mr Darcy?”

“Yes, sir. Mr Darcy and I are engaged.”

“Good, that will help your mother rest easy in her bed, knowing that she has two daughters engaged to be married.” Mr Bennet studied his plate for some moments before asking, “And did you enjoy your evening stroll with Mr Darcy?”

Elizabeth she did not mind that he was teasing her; it was the humorous banter between them that made Mrs Bennet bearable for them both. Not that they did not love her, because they did, but sometimes, just sometimes, she did make herself appear ridiculous. The day she visited Jane at Netherfield sprang to mind. She had been abominably rude to Mr Darcy.

“Would it surprise you to know that Mr Darcy proposed to me again?”

“Not in the slightest. Darcy told me of his intentions some days ago.”

“He did?” Elizabeth sounded surprised.

“Oh, yes, in this very room. Mr Darcy said that you had some notion that we were indebted to him. Though Darcy assures me you will start your married life on an even keel, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth did not think her reasoning was silly. They were indebted to him, and not only for his timely intervention with Lydia and Mr Wickham. Had it not been for Mr Darcy anticipating Wickham’s direction, they might still be searching for them in London. Then there was the money he had dowered to Lydia. Three thousand pounds was enough for a frugal person to live out their entire life.

“But Father, we are, or at least we were, in Mr Darcy’s debt, both financially and morally. Only now the debt has been repaid.”

“You are referring to Lydia, as well as the assistance we rendered Mrs Galbraith?”

Elizabeth looked puzzled.

“Yes, of course.”

Mr Bennet had assumed that when Darcy proposed to Elizabeth earlier, he would take a moment to make a clean breast of things. He could not recommend they speak their marriage vows with a lie between them.

Elizabeth sensed something had changed. Her father suddenly seemed distant.

“I still have the accounts to do, my dear, get off to bed now.”

Elizabeth put her plate on the desk and kissed her father’s brow.

“Good night, Papa.”

“Good night child.”

 

Darcy was euphoric as he rose and dressed the next morning. Nothing, he declared, could dampen his spirits this beautiful summer day. He was engaged to the woman he loved, he had a special licence in his pocket. Soon, Elizabeth would be his wife.

Descended the stair with a spring in his step he made his way to the breakfast room to join Bingley. Moments later, a footman appeared with his mail on a silver salver.

“You have written to Miss Darcy and asked her to join us here at Netherfield?” Mr Bingley enquired of Darcy.

“I have, and she should be with us in only a day or two. I could not get married without my sister present.”

“No, of course.” Charles sounded nervous, but he did not keep Mr Darcy in suspense for long.

“Darcy, do you think I should invite Caroline and the Hurst’s to attend my wedding?”

Darcy put down the letter he was reading and thought hard for a moment.

“Your decision is a difficult one, Charles. One the one hand, you should have your sibling present for such a momentous day in your life. But, on the other hand, on more than one occasion, Miss Caroline has proved that she cannot be trusted to be civil, especially where the Bennet’s are concerned.”

“So, what do I do?”

“Invite them to the wedding breakfast, but not the service. The last thing you want is to go through the same ordeal as Mrs Galbraith!”

Charles seemed satisfied with that answer. It was the perfect solution and now he no longer needed to think about it, he turned his attention back to his plate.

Darcy, who was still sifting through his mail, was surprised to receive a hand delivered missive. It was from Mr Bennet.

It read:

Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy,

A matter of some importance has been drawn to my attention, namely

that you have not yet been honest with Elizabeth.

I desire that you resolve this matter with alacrity, and must request that

you seek Elizabeth out at your earliest convenience to rectify this

alarming oversight.

Thomas Bennet

Mr Darcy folded the note and slipped it into his waistcoat pocket.

Directly after breakfast, he and Mr Bingley rode to Longbourn, where Charles immediately sought out Jane’s company.

Darcy, meanwhile, made his way to Mr Bennet’s study.

“Come in, sit down,” Mr Bennet said, though he remained standing.

Darcy felt relaxed and happy as he seated himself in the chair opposite his host’s desk. He assumed Mr Bennet wanted to talk about the marriage contract.

Mr Bennet stood with his back to the window, and his hands clasped firmly behind his back. His countenance was sombre as he addressed Mr Darcy.

“I will come straight to the point, sir. You had already won my daughter’s heart, and she has accepted your proposal?”

Clearly, it was a question, but to what Mr Bennet was alluding, Darcy did not know. Shifting in his chair, Darcy now sat straight-backed as he realised his host was not in the best of moods.

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you have also enlightened her to the deception that brought you to this happy conclusion?”

Darcy stared at Mr Bennet, for once lost for words.

“Do I take it then sir, that you intend to enter into this marriage with a lie between you?”

“I…I do not sir, but I thought I could reveal my part in Anne’s elopement at some later date.”

“Not good enough, sir,” said an irate Mr Bennet. “You are not being fair to Elizabeth, she deserves more from you, sir. She deserves your total honesty. Elizabeth is no-one’s fool, and she is as likely to think you tricked her into marriage as not.”

Darcy hung his head. Of, course, Mr Bennet was right. All his life he had abhorred deceit of any kind, and yet he had been willing to deceive Elizabeth. He was heartily ashamed of himself.

“I will go and speak to her now sir.”

Mr Bennet believed that Darcy would indeed, seek Elizabeth out and reveal his part in Anne’s elopement, but he doubted he’d had much practice in explaining why he had lied. If it were in his power to soften the blow, for both Elizabeth and Darcy, then he must do so.

“Good. Now, might I suggest that you say that Anne came to you and asked for help?”

“But is that not just replacing one lie with another, sir?”

“I am convinced, that in time, your cousin would have sought you out, sir, and asked for your assistance. You merely expedited the process.”

There was no denying that in the past, Anne had occasionally asked for his advice or assistance. Darcy had been only too willing to offer his services to his cousin in the absence of a father or brother. He chose to believe that Mr Bennet was right; Anne would have eventually sought him out to assist in her affair of the heart. She had no-one else to turn to.

Darcy walked out of the room, his mood slightly lifted, though he was still dreading the coming conversation he must have with Elizabeth.

After looking in several rooms, it was Mrs Hill who told him where to find her.

As he drew near to the entrance of the walled garden, Darcy bumped into Mr Collins.

“Ah, Mr Darcy,” he said giving a low bow, “I did not have the opportunity to congratulate you on your betrothal to my dear cousin, Elizabeth.”

Darcy immediately felt irritated by the presence of the Parson. Though he had no doubt in his mind that any man who had dared to initiate a courtship with Elizabeth would have also irritated him.

“Thank you, Collins.”

They stood face to face, with Mr Collins blocking the entrance to the area where Darcy wanted to go.

Compelled to make further conversation, Darcy asked, “And Mrs Collins, she is well?”

“Oh, yes, thank you, sir. Quite well. I have sent her an express only this morning asking her to join me. I do not think it prudent to return to Hunsford at this moment, not after her ladyship…well, less said.”

Darcy’s irritation turned to pity. His aunt was a formidable opponent at the best of times. For a weak man such as Mr Collins, there had been little chance of him standing up to her.

“I feel sure you will not regret your decision, and Mrs Collins is a sensible woman and will see the advantages of your move. Now…”

Mr Collins stepped aside, bobbing lower than ever, bolstered by the reassuring words of the illustrious, Mr Darcy.

With only a couple of strides behind him, Darcy was surprised when he heard Elizabeth speak his name.

“That was kind of you, Fitzwilliam. Mr Collins does not possess a strong character, and I suspect your aunt often used his weakness to her own advantage.”

Darcy closed the last few steps between them, and he lifted her hand to his lips, placing a light kiss on her fingers.

“Elizabeth,” he said, and they exchanged salutes.

“It is going to be a warm day; shall we sit in the shade?” asked Elizabeth.

He followed her to the end of the garden, where the trees shaded her special bench.

Darcy sat beside her and kicked at the grass with his boot as he struggled to find the words to begin his confession.

“Elizabeth,” he started, “I have not been entirely honest with you.”

At first, Elizabeth thought he was jesting, but his grave countenance soon told her that he was in earnest.

She was shocked. Elizabeth distinctly remembered Mr Darcy telling her when she was at Netherfield last winter that deceit of any kind was abhorrent to him.

“A lie, Mr Darcy?” she asked.

“Do not judge me too harshly, Elizabeth. The happiness of four people rested on my actions.” He could not meet her gaze. Instead, he looked at his boots. “I…I discovered that my cousin and Mr Galbraith were in love, quite by accident really, but once in possession of this knowledge, I used it for my own personal gain. Not financially you understand, but…emotionally.”

He stole a sideways glance at Elizabeth, hoping to gauge her reaction. From her rigid stance, he knew she was disappointed.

“I could have offered Anne the use of Pemberley or even my townhouse to get married at, but I did not. I knew my aunt would have her people check out my properties first. So, I advised them to throw themselves on your father’s mercy.”

Her voice was quiet, but there was an underlying tone of anger in it.

“And what if he had turned her away? Would you have been so proud of humiliating your cousin then?”

“Oh, but Mr Bennet had already agreed to aid them. I would not have been so insensitive as to send Anne to Longbourn unannounced.”

Elizabeth was fuming. To be deceived by the man who you loved was bad enough, but to drag her father, and probably her entire family into his deception was unforgivable.

“Why are you telling me this now?”

“I could not marry you without being totally honest with you first,” Elizabeth said nothing; looking only ahead.

Decided to throw himself on her mercy, Darcy pleaded, “Elizabeth, being dishonest is not my wont, you know it is not, but you would not entertain my proposal, try as I might offer you my hand. Your notion of being indebted to me was ridiculous…”

Darcy fell silent as Elizabeth stood abruptly.

“I find I have a fierce headache, sir, and must return to the house.”

“Elizabeth,” Darcy called out, but her quick strides only grew faster as he called to her.

Reluctantly to chase after her, Darcy returned to Netherfield. How could he have misjudged her reaction so badly? If he were in her shoes, would he have been so quick to temper? If he were honest, he probably would have been. Regret was another unfamiliar emotion to him, but he felt it keenly this day, and he did not like it. Elizabeth had every right to be displeased and disappointed with him.

Tomorrow, he would call on her again and hope that her mood had softened as she gave his confession some thought. But for tonight, he decided to find solace in the bottom of a brandy bottle.

******************

So, did it pan out how you expected? Leave a comment and let me know.

Till next time,

Martine xx

p.s. Look out for my  article on Emma after the Epilogue of, A Love Most Ardent. Also, in the autumn I will be doing a giveaway for anyone who has read, Mr Darcy’s Proposal.

A Love Most Ardent Chapter 25

A.N.

Here is the next installment of; A Love Most Ardent. Chapter 25.

Re. chapter 24. I have added a couple of lines in this chapter explaining why Anne has not inherited the Rosings Estate.

I hope I am still keeping you guessing.

Enjoy!

MJR

 

Chapter Twenty-Five

 

After the wedding feast had been consumed, and several toasts to the happy couple had been made, Mr and Mrs Angus Galbraith set off on their wedding trip. They were to enjoy a tour of the Scottish Highlands, allowing Angus to introduce his new wife to his family.

While everyone else returned inside, Darcy watched until the carriage had disappeared from view. He felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Never again would he have to defend himself against the accusation that he was engaged to his cousin. He wished Anne and Galbraith every happiness, assuring her that his gift was indeed a genuine one, and not offered merely to thwart his Aunt.

“For a man who is newly engaged, Darcy, you look decidedly down.”

Richard was the closest thing to a brother Darcy had, and as such, he could read his moods effortlessly.

“I should be the happiest of men, Richard, yet I am not. I said what I said because I wanted it to be true, yet I voiced an assumption that Elizabeth, in all good grace, could not deny. Even Anne, before she left, wished Elizabeth joy.”

Frustrated with hearing the same story, again and again, Richard said what he thought.

“Stop wallowing in self-pity, for goodness sake, Darcy. Even a blind man could see that Miss Elizabeth loves you. So, you did not go down on one knee and propose in the expected fashion, but she still said yes.”

Watching Darcy struggle with his own conscience, both exhausted and exasperated Richard, prompting him to offer Darcy his last piece of advice.

“If it bothers you that much, man, then get in there and do it properly!”

Darcy listened as Richard gave him a verbal ear-boxing – and quite rightly so for he deserved it. Instead of brooding that he had cornered Elizabeth into marriage, he should seek her out and propose to her again, only this time with no ulterior motive. Their path was clear. There was no Wickham to blight their union, and no Anne waiting for a proposal. Even Georgiana has said she loved Elizabeth as a sister.

Taking Richard’s hand Darcy pumped it in a firm handshake, thanking him for the excellent advice. Then he disappeared inside, leaving a satisfied and slightly smug Richard, standing alone on the drive.

Darcy re-entered the property through the open French doors. He was not surprised to see that the furniture had been moved back and the carpet rolled up. It appeared there was to be dancing.

He watched as Lydia sauntered over to Reverend Muir and boldly asked him to dance.

“You are no longer mourning the loss of your husband, Mrs Wickham?” he asked, slightly shocked at her forwardness.

“Oh, yes, but George knew how much I loved to dance, Mr Muir. I do not think he would expect me to sit on the sidelines and be a wallflower like Mary!”

“Lydia, that is just the kind of thoughtless remark that caused Mary to write to Lady Catherine. Now leave Reverend Muir alone, and go and help Kitty set the chairs straight.” Elizabeth scolded.

Though they numbered just ten now, the musicians played as if the Prince Regent himself was present. First, they played the Barley Mow, then the Cambridge Waltz which they followed with La Boulanger.

Darcy looked on as Elizabeth partnered all the single gentlemen in the room. Dancing first with Richard, then with Mr Bingley, and the third with the surprisingly nimble footed Reverend. However, when the introduction music for the Shrewsbury Lasses was struck, he could wait no longer.

“Miss Elizabeth, I believe you have exhausted all possible partners for yourself, save Mr Bennet and me. May I now remedy that by asking if you would partner me for the next dance?”

The smile on Darcy’s face relayed to her that he was not displeased because she was popular, merely anxious for his turn to dance with her.

“Forgive me, sir, but you were absent when the frivolity started, and my dance card was quickly filled.” Elizabeth teased as she perused her non-existent dance card, “However, I believe I am free for this next dance, sir.”

Taking her hand, they joined the other couples on the floor. Waiting for the moment when they could join in, Elizabeth stood opposite Darcy.

“This is one of my favourite tunes, and the musicians play it so well, do you not think?”

“They do indeed. It is also a particular favourite of mine.”

“Then how fortuitous for us both that they are playing it now.”

Darcy smiled broadly. He had missed the way she teased him with her keen mind and quick wit. No other woman had spoken to him as she did…ever, and it was refreshing and attractive.

They sashayed and hopped and turned and sidestepped until the dance came to an end.

It was an energetic dance, and Darcy felt a little breathless. He noticed that Elizabeth looked a little flushed too. After all, she had been engaged for four dances in succession.

“May I get you some refreshments, Miss Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth nodded, and the moment Darcy was gone, fluttered her fan as she tried to cool her heated skin. Dancing so excessively on a summer’s evening was not conducive to looking one’s best, especially for a lady.

When Darcy returned, he suggested that they take their drinks outside, where there was at least the hint of a breeze.

Elizabeth looked over at her Papa, and when he inclined his head, she readily agreed. After all, they were engaged, were they not?

It appeared that they were not the only couple to have sought the cool night air. Jane and Mr Bingley were seated on the bench at the edge of the lawn, quietly talking to one another.

“The flowers in this area of the garden are quite beautiful, Miss Elizabeth. It is a veritable rainbow of colour.”

Elizabeth, who was leading the way, smiled.

“Admiring flowers is one thing, growing them is quite another,” she replied.

“My father was always a practical man, Elizabeth. He encouraged me to indulge in all the manly pursuits, such as shooting, fishing, and riding. In fact, the pastime he considered acceptable for a gentleman. But taking a seed, planting it, nurturing it until it blooms…seemed infinitely more rewarding to me. I feel this way about animals too. I would much rather breed a healthy animal than all these new-fangled hybrids the keep appearing.”

Darcy fell silent. He knew he had been rambling, and doubted, if asked, he could repeat a single sentence he had uttered. Feeling nervous and unsure of himself was not emotions Darcy was familiar with.

Elizabeth finally stopped and turned to face him.

Darcy was surprised to see how far they had walked; they were now in the walled garden.

“This is my garden, Mr Darcy, set aside for me by my father. Apart from caring for the grassed area and the pruning of the larger trees, it is all my own work.”

Darcy glanced around, taking more of an interest this time. Remembering the last time he had stopped here filled him with shame. He had acted like a petulant child when Charles had rebuked him for leaving Elizabeth alone. This time, his behaviour would be impeccable.

“The blue flowers, the ones that are mixed in with the red poppies and yellow lady’s bedstraw, it is the cornflower is it not?”

Elizabeth was astounded that a man as busy as Mr Darcy would know the name of any flower, let alone identify three correctly.

“Yes…yes, it is.”

Darcy heard the surprise in Elizabeth’s voice and turned to confront her.

“You sound surprised that I know this, Miss Elizabeth?” he said good-naturedly.

“I am! I would not think botany was a topic you studied.”

Feeling more at ease, Darcy tried to explain.

“Any landowner worth their salt must be able to recognise the plants on their property. Could I send my farm cattle to graze in a field loaded with delphiniums, foxglove, or monkshood? Although attractive, they are all poisonous if ingested by cows, horses, and indeed, humans too. We also tend to give plants a Latin name as well a common name, these were incorporated into my lessons by my Latin master.”

Elizabeth laughed, and Darcy frown in puzzlement.

“Oh, I am sorry, Mr Darcy, but the image of you as a child botanist is one I find hard to imagine.”

“But which amuses you the most, Elizabeth? The fact that I know my plants, or that I was a child?”

“Both!” she exclaimed and burst out laughing again.

He loved how she was not afraid to show her emotions; and when she laughed, the corners of her eyes to crinkle and her sweet voice rippled with mirth.

The urge to sweep her into his arms and kiss her soundly was strong, but his conscience and lack of courage forced him to remain motionless. Though considered engaged, propriety demanded that he heard her accept him vocally before he took such a liberty.

Suddenly all thoughts of plants and laughter deserted him, replaced by an overwhelming desire to secure Elizabeth’s love and acceptance.

Taking a step forward, Darcy waited for her to quieten and notice him.

Elizabeth finally saw the space between them had been closed. She also noticed that his mood was now sombre, and the laughter died on her lips.

“Elizabeth,” he said softly.

There seemed to be a tightening in her chest, and her lungs felt constricted as she tried to draw a breath. At the same time, her heart began racing, pounding against her ribs.

Taking Elizabeth’s hand in his own, Darcy dropped down on bended knee.

“Elizabeth,” he said, his voice ragged with love and uncertainty. “I have no armour left, you have stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me; whatever I am, belongs to you. Marry me, Elizabeth, say you will be mine.”

His actions were so sudden, she had not expected another proposal after already agreeing to marry him that morning.

“But, sir, I thought we had settled this, this morning…”

“I need to hear you say it, Elizabeth; say you will marry me, that you love me, that you…want me,” he said as he searched her face.

Elizabeth clasped his hand between hers and pulled him to his feet. Stepping forward, she left no space between them as she placed his hand over her heart.

“Fitzwilliam, I have waited all my life for a man who would love me for me, and not for what I was worth to him. That last morning in Lambton, before I received Jane’s letters, I thought…I hoped you would come to the inn and propose to me. I knew I would accept because I loved you. I still love you. Even in my dreams, I loved you…”

The time for words had passed. Darcy’s heart was pounding, and his emotions were soaring. Untangling their hand, he pulled Elizabeth into a tight embrace and smothered her mouth with his lips as he murmured her name.

Elizabeth instinctively curled her arms around his neck and tilted her face up that she could receive his kiss more fully.

He tasted sweet, of the punch they had drunk, and his aroma was manly with a hint of sandalwood. His lips were soft and searching, and she was only too willing to surrender her mouth to his.

Several kisses later, Elizabeth tore her mouth away from his, gasping for air. Kissing, she discovered, was something deliciously exciting and sensual, but until she had mastered its art, she had to remember to breathe.

Darcy released her mouth with reluctance, raining feather kisses along her jaw and cheeks before burying his face in her neck.

“My, darling Elizabeth, I thought I should go insane if you turned me away.” He held her tighter. “I did intend to ask for your hand at Lambton, but you were so distraught, I knew I must not.”

“I could not have accepted you then, not while Lydia and Wickham were lost to us.”

Darcy turned his attention to her lips once more, kissing her first lightly and then more demandingly.

With little experience of kissing Elizabeth felt overwhelmed, raising her hands she pushed him away.

“I am sorry, I know it is too much, too soon. I am just so happy, Elizabeth. You shall be the mistress of Pemberley, as you are mistress of my heart.”

Elizabeth feigned shock

“Mistress, sir? I am to be your wife, not your mistress!”

Darcy smiled, of course, she was right. His wife, Elizabeth was to be his wife; and he wanted to shout it to the stars.

Their moment of intimacy had been interrupted, and Darcy realised he must refrain from kissing Elizabeth any more. Her lips were bruised and swollen and had changed to a beautiful shade of dark pink, one that matched her dress perfectly.

On impulse, Darcy stretched out his hand and plucked one of the tight rosebuds from the single bush in the garden.

“A rose, for my rose,” he smiled and held it out to her.

Elizabeth took the rosebud and held it gently in her hands. Though not yet fully open, it released an aroma that reminded her of sweet fruits, like raspberries or blackberries.

“This is the first gift that you have given me, Fitzwilliam. I will keep it always; to forever remind us of this day.”

“There are many things I want to give you Elizabeth, my love, my loyalty, my protection, my fidelity…my children.”

Elizabeth blushed when he mentioned children, hinting at the physical aspect of their union. But, as ever, she covered her embarrassment with a tease.

“I hope a wedding band will be forthcoming before the latter, sir!”

“Most assuredly, Miss Bennet,” Darcy said in his rich baritone voice.

Reluctantly conscious of the time that had elapsed since they had left the party, Darcy stooped down and pressed a light kiss to her lips.

“Come, we must return before they send someone to look for us.”

Darcy ran his fingers through his hair and tugged down his waistcoat, and again hoped he looked respectable.

Elizabeth accepted his proffered arm, and together, the new and officially engaged couple made their way back inside.

 

Till next time,

Martine xx

 

 

 

Longbourn is up for sale

Luckington Court

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any Jane Austen fan will easily recognise the picture above.

 

 

Luckington Court, used as the Bennet family home in the 1995 TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, is up for sale.

With an asking price of just $11,500,000 or £9,000,000 together with its location, and appealing exterior, I do not expect it will be on the market for long.

This beautiful Grade II listed Wiltshire property is on the market for the first time in over 70 years.

 

Sitting is 156 acres of rolling countryside, this 16 century, 7 bedroom property has recently undergone an extensive program of renovation’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a beautiful church sitting right next door, it must surely be a must have home for any millionaire who is a Jane Austen, Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, etc, fan. Indeed, if I had the funds I would be moving in as we speak, but sadly I have yet to win the lottery.

I won’t hold my breath, but I can dream . . . .