Ending your misery! Hang in there we’re only half way through!
May 1, 1841
Five years later
“Your tea has gone cold,” Betsy sighed as she poured Darcy a new cup. At her side, a baby gurgled.
After passing the cup to her father, Betsy stood and gathered the child in her arms. Patting the babe as she inspected the room she hummed a tune. An old lullaby her mother had sung to her.
“At least the maids keep it clean. Will and Emily visit often?”
“Yes and so do the children,” Darcy said.
Once the baby was asleep, Betsy returned to her seat across from her father. “Why do you not return to home? The Dower House is nicely laid out, but you should be master. You are not in your dotage yet.”
“You know why I cannot stay there. I am just down the lane should Will need me.”
Betsy frowned, and Darcy knew she would attempt, again, to convince him to return to his ancestral home. She had made her case weekly, unless she was in Town, for five years now. He cut her off as she opened her mouth. “Why do you not leave Beth with me? The nursery maids have enough to worry about with your nephews.”
Betsy looked shocked but pleased. Still, a hand went to her throat and troubled a necklace there. “You are certain you will be well? I shan’t be gone long.”
“Of course,” Darcy said and held out his arms.
“She should sleep for much of the time,” Betsy said as she placed her baby in her father’s arms. “You look so good with a baby, Papa,” she kissed his cheek. “Mama often said it to me. Did she ever say it to you?”
Darcy shook his head. His hair prematurely white but still slightly curled.
“I will be right back,” she said and tiptoed away.
Darcy sat in quiet memories. Shortly after burying Elizabeth, he had removed to the dower house. Will did not return to London and began overseeing Pemberley’s affairs. Thankfully, the boy could lean on the steward for his father was no help at all for many months.
In time, Darcy emerged from his shell, but he was far different for the experience. Never given to mirth, he had not smiled since Elizabeth died. He was honestly astonished he still lived. He would never take his life but was amazed his heart still beat.
He could not live in the house so full of memories of Elizabeth, nor could he see his daughter-in-law, Emily, become the mistress, no matter how much he loved her. Betsy’s coming out was delayed a year for mourning and Darcy had never been so struck with his selfishness than the day he realized that he got his way. He was correct, she received three offers her first year but fortunately, Elizabeth had counseled her wisely, and it was another two years before she married, only for the deepest love. Now she was at Pemberley, going through her old trunks to retrieve items for her daughter. As Darcy held his newest grandchild, called Beth, pain gripped his heart. She had Elizabeth’s eyes.
The little angel remained asleep in his arms, and he sat quietly, lost in memories. He searched his mind once more, an obsessive habit now, attempting to determine if it had all been wishful thinking. How had he missed that Elizabeth still disliked him? It was true that hope for her love vanished before Will was even born, but he had believed Elizabeth cared for him some, and not just as the father of her children. Her words did not lie though.
Lost in such melancholy thoughts, he did not hear Betsy enter. She touched his shoulder and called out, “Father?”
He startled and looked up at the intruder quickly before glancing away to hide his glassy eyes. Once composed he turned his attention back to his daughter.
“Yes, Betsy? You can see we are fine.”
He attempted to smile. Before Elizabeth, he seldom smiled, and now, years without her, it was the same.
“I see. You are always wonderful with children. Mama loved that about you.”
Darcy’s countenance darkened, “I hardly believe there was much your mother loved about me.”
Betsy shook her head and emphatically stated, “I know she did.”
“Elizabeth Jane, you know this subject is out of the question. Desist.”
She spoke with a tone very reminiscent of her mother, “You can no longer order me about, Father. Will you not ask me the cause for my assuredness?”
He let out an exasperated sigh. “You are sometimes too much like your Aunt Jane, always reasoning things out to see the good in everybody and everything. The fact remains that I am a selfish man, no matter how you may try to explain it differently.”
The combined strength of the Darcy, Fitzwilliam and Bennet stubbornness became apparent on Betsy’s face in a flash. “I am not so kind-hearted as that, and you know it! But I have proof. I have her own words.”
Darcy looked at her in confusion, and she removed several journals from a basket she had brought in. She laid them on the table next to her father. His eyes darted to them and looked at them in a mixture of longing and fear. Gathering up baby Beth, she kissed her father on the cheek and whispered, “Read them.”
Darcy sat staring at Elizabeth’s journals arguing with himself until brought out of his reverie by the chill in the air. The fire had long ago grown low. He quickly added several more logs and then focussed on the growing blaze. For a moment, he thought about simply burning them all. Glancing at them again, he decided he would read some—if only to look at her beautiful penmanship again.
Darcy started with the earliest one. He winced at reading the first few entries, full of anger directed at himself for their marriage and blushed to think his daughter might know of his ungentlemanly behaviour. Elizabeth did not write daily, or even monthly. Before many pages, there was an entry that caught his attention. She had redecorated the mistress’s apartments in preparation for Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner’s visit and had come across some old things of hers brought from Longbourn.
Elizabeth had found his letter. After his kiss, she had never bothered to read it, but somehow did not burn it either. Its effect on her was significant. As Darcy looked at the date on the entry again, he realized it was near the time he had sensed an improvement in her feelings for him.
Many weeks later, there was another entry. Lydia had eloped with Wickham While visiting at Longbourn when Elizabeth was there, Lydia had mentioned Darcy was at her wedding. Elizabeth applied to her Aunt Gardiner directly and was quickly informed of the whole of Darcy’s role in the matter. Another look at the date, and it occurred to him that this must have been the cause for her declaration of love. He hated to think it was elicited out of gratitude of any kind, but this was much worse than out of her falling with child.
Bravely, and against his better instincts, he turned the page and read:
I love him! My whole heart wants to scream it loudly! And I know not when it happened, but I believe I have loved him for a very long time now. Possibly since he first pulled me into his arms and showed me I was too precious to him to let me go. I must confess this here, for I fear to utter the words aloud. I have been so wrong, I misjudged him so badly. He does not speak of love, though his every look confirms it. I am a muddled mess! Surely, I should not say it if he does not?
Darcy stared at the page for nearly an eternity. Elizabeth loved him? Even a bit, even if he starved it away, she had loved him. He turned the page again.
I must tell him, he deserves to know. My happiness is only made more complete by the fact that I felt the first flutterings of our babe today. I had long suspected but was not sure.
The next page was dated only days later.
I told him. Last night I confessed my love while in his arms. He said nothing but held me tighter. I fell asleep to the sound of his heart and felt like the most cherished thing in the world.
Darcy now read compulsively, his eyes greedy for every word.
I shared the news of the babe with darling Fitzwilliam today. He smiled broadly and even twirled me around and laughed. As the day went on though, he seemed concerned and withdrew into himself. Perhaps he is concerned for my health? Mrs. Reynolds explained his mother did not do well in her confinements, finally passing after Georgiana’s birth.
Months passed before another entry, the page bore evidence of tear stains.
Why does he not say it again? I was such a fool! Did I drive it away with my cruel refusal? But he must still love me. Or is it only vain wishes? Will the only time I ever hear those cherished words from his lips have been during his wretchedly worded proposal I so shamefully spurned?
Darcy felt tears sting his own face and they fell on the parchment in his hands, mingling with her long-dried ones. “Oh, Elizabeth! I love you, I’ve always loved you, If only I had known!”
His heart contracted, and his head throbbed with anguish. “I had thought you did not wish to hear of my affections! I feared you would not welcome the words; that you would refuse the sentiment. But for my horrible pride! I should have whispered them in your ear hourly!”
He turned page after page but found no more mentions of love. Instead, her entries were directed on being a new mother and their expanding family. In the journal dated several years after the birth of their youngest daughter, Darcy caught his breath and read.
We have been married 15 years today, and my love for Fitzwilliam is stronger than I ever thought possible. He is a silent man, not given to mirth or much sentiment. Years ago, as I first learned my own heart, I was uncertain of his, but I have learned a truer, more constant heart has never beat. He still does not tell me with words, but we have an unspoken union. And I daresay he is just as besotted with me as ever.
I have accepted Betsy will be my last child. I fear my husband worries too much when I am with child. However much I enjoy his attentions, he does not wish for me to fall with child frequently. But four children, two of each sex, is a good brood. Even my mother cannot complain, for not only do I have the heir and a spare, but Fitzwilliam so generously named our eldest daughter after my mother as well as his. And he honoured my father by naming our youngest son Bennet instead of using his family name.
God has been very good to me, I am so very happy.
For hours and hours, Darcy read until at last, he reached the final pages.
Fitzwilliam is such a vexing man! I know he is anxious to keep Betsy home, that he cannot bear to part with his dearest daughter, but she is grown now. In five and twenty years, I still have not learned how to move on his stubbornness, but I am hoping soon we will make him see reason. He cannot have his way in this for no reason than his selfishness.
It hurt to read Elizabeth’s words of admonishment about his behaviour and tears stung his eyes again. Knowing the next page contained her final entry, Darcy held his breath. At long last, he turned the final page and read her last entry, dated the day of her death.
How have I been so blind all these years? I thought he knew! But it seems he does not, my refusal must have hurt him deeper than I ever believed. Oh! I was so awful just now, I declared he had a selfish disdain for the feelings of others, and no matter how much I love him I do believe he has a selfish streak. But I had entirely forgotten the words I said in my dreadful refusal until I saw his face darken, just as it did that day. I had spoken those very words. And now I learn they have haunted him for five and twenty years and he never believed I loved him.
I cannot think now, I must be away to calm my thoughts, but when I return, I will do what I should have done when I first knew my heart. My stupid pride, I did not wish to repeat the words if he seemed unwilling to say them! I will tell him and tell him and tell him until my final day on this Earth. I will tell him: I love you, my dearest Fitzwilliam.
Darcy wept joyful tears before falling into a heavy slumber in his chair before the fire. He awoke hours later to a room unusually warm and bright, and after his eyes had adjusted, he saw Elizabeth standing before him.
She stretched forward her hand and said, “Come, my love. We will have no more misunderstandings between us now.” Without hesitation, he reached for her hand and pulled her into an embrace, feeling the light all around him.