Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
January 13, 1812
Elizabeth looked in the mirror as she readied for her wedding day. The three weeks of her engagement to Mr. Darcy had been a whirlwind. Last week, her cousin, Mr. Collins, had married her best friend, Charlotte. Lady Lucas enjoyed crowing about the county that although Mrs. Bennet had three engaged daughters, hers married first. Amazingly, Elizabeth’s mother had not taken the bait. The revelations of the weeks preceding her engagement remained fixed in Mrs. Bennet’s mind, as well as the minds of the others.
The house was quiet now while Jane, Elizabeth, and Mary shared a chamber to dress. Mrs. Bennet and Aunt Gardiner were downstairs overseeing the wedding breakfast. Kitty, Lydia, and Georgiana were helping with decorations. Elizabeth smiled softly as she considered that at last her father would have the quiet and peace he had long desired, but it came at such a cost.
“I think I am ready,” Elizabeth said. She had elected to use the mirror last.
“Are you sure?” Mary asked, her voice trembling.
“You are not having second thoughts, are you, dearest?” Jane asked and hugged her sister.
“No, I do not think so.” Mary shook her head.
Elizabeth smiled. The engagement had allowed Mary’s beauty to blossom. She now looked lovelier than she ever had before, and the confidence she gained from feeling the unconditional love of a good man made her glow.
“I love Richard so very much,” Mary whispered. “I am worried about being a wife; running a house and pleasing him.”
“He does not seem very hard to please,” Elizabeth said. Richard was one of the most amiable gentlemen she had ever met, and she looked forward to calling him brother.
“I know,” Mary agreed, “I never said my fears were rational.”
Jane and Elizabeth shared an amused look.
“He is so…so worldly. What if I cannot please him like a wife should?” Mary blushed scarlet.
“Oh,” Jane said and looked at her feet.
From the colour rising in her elder sister’s cheeks, Elizabeth guessed that Jane also had such fears.
Pulling on courage that Elizabeth did not know she had, she came to her sisters’ sides. “Do you believe they love you?”
They both nodded.
“Then what do you have to fear? Our gentlemen do not love us because they believe we are perfect. That would not be love. As much as we see their flaws, they see ours.”
“Sometimes I do fear that Charles puts me on a pedestal,” Jane confessed. “Although I know if I had shown him more encouragement, he never would have left Netherfield.”
“Did you say as much to him?” Elizabeth asked.
“I tried, but he would not listen. He took all the blame.”
Elizabeth nodded. “He was not entirely innocent. Selfishly, I would rather you be with a man who thinks you faultless than who tosses all blame on you.”
“Lizzy,” Jane laughed, “you would not want the same for yourself. I know you have disagreed with Mr. Darcy about him taking the blame for everything.”
“Our mistakes are far different from either yours or Charles’s. We will all soon be married and have plenty of time to talk with our husbands. I am sure you will find a way to say what you must. Do not let this evening end without expressing your fears.”
Mary sighed. “It is not as easy for Jane and me, I think. Our husbands did not save our lives at risk to themselves.”
“Is that what has worried you?” Elizabeth laughed. “Well, Mr. Darcy did not fight tooth and nail to come propose to me for weeks on end. He did not even want to love me. Nor did he kiss me senseless in a crowded room.”
“I was not senseless,” Mary pouted.
“Did you stop him?” Elizabeth raised her brows.
“Of course not,” Mary laughed. “That was proof of my good sense!”
“Indeed!” Elizabeth and Jane laughed as well.
“We must not compare our experiences. I trust that just as we each have the perfect man for our personalities, we have experienced the best journey to love in our individual way. Let us try an experiment. Mary, how did you know you loved the colonel?”
Mary blushed but raised her chin proudly. “You know that I recorded journal entries. Increasingly, I grew concerned about the strangeness occurring. However, whenever I saw Richard, I felt my worries vanish. Something about him gave me hope. Something told me he would assist us. Even after he kissed me, I had not known I loved him. Now, I can see that I saw in him what was lacking in my life: a source of joy and someone I could confide in and rely upon.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Jane?”
“All my life I have been called beautiful. It never felt like anyone saw beneath my exterior. When Mr. Bingley returned and apologised, when he understood the pain I went through, I knew he possessed my heart. He made me feel truly beautiful by recognising I was more than the sum of a well-proportioned figure and face.”
Now, both sisters looked expectantly at Elizabeth. “Darcy always created extreme emotions in me. The passion he stirred frightened me. Hatred was so much easier to understand and maintain. However, I craved to know more of him. To understand him. When we faced Wickham, he showed me parts of himself that he had tucked away from others. When I thought he might die…it was like a part of me was dying as well. I may not have always recognised my feelings as love, but once I did, I would not let them go.”
“I think I understand,” Mary said. “I am ready now. I wish to become Mrs. Richard Fitzwilliam.”
Jane eagerly nodded, and the three sisters rose from the bed they sat upon and hugged. Walking down the stairs, their family awaited them in the drawing room. The carriage took them to the church, and while they recited their vows, their hearts soared, knowing their joy was shared by a sister as well.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Kitty, Lydia, Mrs. Bennet and even Mr. Wickham finding a better path in life. I’ll be posting an extended epilogue called MR. DARCY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL in the next few days.
You may also purchase MR. DARCY’S MIRACLE AT LONGBOURN, going live as ebook on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and iBooks on 12/8/17 which contains all three parts.