My Music Monday post was the song “Just to See You Smile” by Tim McGraw. I’ve always wanted to give him a happy ending in that song so it’s inspired this story. I actually think the song would go more naturally with Emma and Knightley but I got told with the Jane & Bingley story that readers just want Darcy and Elizabeth. 🙂 Maybe one day, I’ll explore minor characters and other Austen books more. I hope you enjoy my Regency-Happily-Ever-After-ified version of this song.
Just to See Her Smile
“Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy frowned as he saw the face of the most beautiful woman in the world crumple in tears at his entrance. “What has upset you so?”
They had met at a ball in London three months ago. He had called on her today with the intention to propose. Her uncle knew and so he had consented to this private encounter.
Elizabeth dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief and her fist tightened around a letter. “A letter from my father. He is ill and requests I return to Longbourn immediately. I do not even have time to say farewell to my friends. If you had not arrived at just this moment…” Elizabeth’s eyes filled with tears again.
“I am very sorry to hear of Mr. Bennet’s illness. Is it serious?”
“No,” her voice shook. “I do not believe so, but I cannot deny him the comfort of having his favourite daughter as a nurse. I seldom come to London more than once a year and with my aunt’s situation I do not think I would receive another invitation until the following Season.” She wiped her eyes. “I am such a selfish creature! I confess I do not want to leave London so soon. Please, tell your sister and Mr. Bingley how much I regret not getting to say goodbye. You cannot conceive how glad I am to have the opportunity to speak with you.”
Understanding that the life of Elizabeth’s father was not in imminent peril, Darcy allowed himself a moment of joy at seeing proof of her affection for him. “In that case, I have good news. Mr. Bingley has signed a lease at Netherfield. He has invited my sister and I to visit and we will be there within a fortnight.”
Elizabeth smiled so wide, Darcy felt as though the sun broke through the overcast sky. She was radiant and resplendent, and he would go anywhere for her, just to see that smile.
“Oh! That is the very best news!” Elizabeth stood and clapped. “Now, I may leave without any remorse. I do beg your pardon, but I must rush to pack now. My aunt has sent a notice to my uncle and I expect we will go on the one o’clock stage.”
“I am happy to give you such joy,” Darcy murmured. “Until we meet again.” He bowed over her hand, raising it to his lips and rejoicing in her blush.
Unfortunately, Mr. Bennet did not quickly recover from his illness. As the weeks in Hertfordshire progressed, Elizabeth withdrew more and more from Darcy’s company. As Mr. Bennet’s health continued to deteriorate, his heir presumptive arrived to visit and, allegedly, console his previously estranged relations. The only positive thing Darcy could see out of the experience was his friend Bingley seemed very much in love with Elizabeth’s eldest sister. When Elizabeth would see the two sitting together, a soft smile came to her face, making Darcy’s heart skip a beat.
One morning, as Mr. Bennet’s time to depart the earth drew nearer, Elizabeth met Darcy in the hall. Bingley and Georgiana had already entered the drawing room. Elizabeth twisted her hands and looked more tired than Darcy had ever seen her before.
“Mr. Darcy, I am relieved I have the opportunity to speak with you.”
“I always wish to give you a respite from any worry. Tell me how I may be of assistance,” he said, furrowing his brow. Dread knotted his stomach.
“My father does so poorly now. It will not be long until…” She trailed off and squeezed her eyes shut. “My mother has taken to her chambers and cannot abide visitors. Any reminder that we might soon have to relocate sends her into fits of anxiety and despair. I am exceedingly sorry to say this, but my sisters and I feel it is best to not entertain friends.”
“It is very understandable. When my father was ill, I was in no mood for entertaining, but I had thought we were on much better terms of friendship than that. If you wish, however, I will explain your feelings to Bingley and my sister.”
“I-I-I do not wish to send Mr. Bingley away,” Elizabeth stuttered. “Jane finds such solace in his company and my sisters can scarcely go a day without seeing Georgiana. They love her as a sister. However…”
Ice trailed down Darcy’s spine as he understood what she meant. It was only him that she wished away. “I apologise if my presence and visits were not welcome. I had thought…”
“Please do not misunderstand,” Elizabeth whispered while looking at her feet. “In the coming weeks, there will be many decisions to be made. I must have a clear head.”
The voice of the detested heir asking after Darcy’s absence rose from the drawing room door. He understood that Elizabeth might receive an offer from Mr. Collins and that she would consider taking it to keep her family at Longbourn. However, why did she not see that Darcy was willing, nay desiring, to offer marriage as well?
“Elizabeth,” he stepped forward. “I must tell you—”
She took several steps backward, tears streaming down her face. “Papa needs me. Good bye, Mr. Darcy. You have always been a dear friend and I hope we meet again under more pleasant circumstances.”
Those tears crushed Darcy’s heart. He could not understand her choice but he could not force an explanation. She had made her decision and it was not to spend her life with him. The greatest thing he could now do for her was to abide by her wishes.
“Yes, I believe I have urgent business in London. I will take my leave of the others.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth managed a shaky smile before fleeing down the hall.
Six months later, Darcy scanned the ballroom in which he found himself. Since leaving Hertfordshire, he only went through the motions of life. Once, he would have rejected the continual offers of dining and the pompous balls he detested. Now, he needed the busyness. Bingley had proposed to Jane just before Mr. Bennet died. They waited now only for her mourning period to end before they could marry. Georgiana wrote copious amounts to all the Bennet sisters but Darcy had made it clear he did not want to hear about it.
A familiar figure appeared in a doorway, and Darcy’s heart stopped. “Elizabeth,” he whispered.
She looked around nervously and then their eyes met. The corners of her mouth tipped up and she nodded at him. A minute later, she walked toward him with a gentleman in tow.
“Mr. Darcy,” she smiled as she curtseyed. “I admit I hoped we would see you here. Mr. Bingley seemed uncertain, although he says you have become quite sociable!”
Darcy bowed, basking in her presence once more. “I am pleased you have found me.” He looked at her lavender gown. “I wrote my condolences but allow me to give them in person.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth muttered.
“My dear, perhaps you would enjoy some punch while I speak with Mr. Darcy,” Mr. Collins said and placed a hand over Elizabeth’s, giving it a squeeze. “Lady Catherine has told me there is no one better to seek advice from on estate matters.”
The presence of Collins set Darcy’s teeth on edge. His voice and way of directing Elizabeth had his hand curling in a fist. When the man claimed the affection of a betrothed, Darcy saw black. Taking a calming breath to avoid fisticuffs in a ballroom, he turned his attention to the gentleman.
“Pardon me,” Elizabeth said and she approached Bingley who was in conversation with Jane and a few others at the moment.
“I do not think I am impertinent to ask for congratulations,” Mr. Collins said. “Such a bright jewel to be mine! However, it is not to be wondered at. I can offer her family very much and as Lady Catherine’s condescension proves, I am a gentleman worthy of much respect and distinction. I have always felt we were kindred in that way.”
Darcy had been prepared for such news, yet a vise gripped his heart at the news all the same. “Is it settled, then? You have asked Miss Elizabeth to be your wife?”
Mr. Collins waved a hand. “Such a formality. I have told her to name the day in which I will be the happiest of men. She mourns her father but I suspect after her sister weds, she will select a date. She would not wish to outshine Jane. Such impeccable manners! Lady Catherine quite approves of her judgement.”
Darcy listened in silence as Mr. Collins continued to praise Lady Catherine and asked inane details about estate management. During the time, Elizabeth danced. Her most recent partner, Bingley, was walking her back toward to Mr. Collins.
“Do you not mean to dance?” Darcy interrupted Collins as Elizabeth approached.
“I wish I could,” he sighed. “Riding for so long in the carriage this afternoon has cramped my leg. Poor Miss Elizabeth seemed quite dejected when she heard I could not display my lightness of foot. I think it will put a damper on her enjoyment of the evening.”
“If I may,” Darcy said. “I would offer myself as a partner for a few sets. You can be assured she will feel comfortable with an old friend moreso than a new acquaintance.”
“Indeed!” Collins bounced on his toes and then grimaced. “She should feel the compliment of your offer. Lady Catherine’s nephew! I do feel fatigued and have been wondering if we might sit but did not wish to insult such a high personage as yourself.”
Darcy managed to keep his eyes from rolling. “I would be pleased to do you the service. Please, do not inconvenience yourself for me. Seek refreshment and a seat.”
“Thank you!” Mr. Collins ambled off as fast as he could.
“What did you say to make him scamper off?” Elizabeth laughed as she and Bingley arrived a moment later.
“I have visited Longbourn every day for months and that is the first time I have seen him move so fast. Oh, he is going to the supper room,” Bingley observed. “Yes, that will motivate him every time.”
Darcy chuckled. “As it happens, he has entrusted me with your care for the evening, Miss Elizabeth.”
“Oh?” she chewed her bottom lip.
“Might I start with requesting the honour of a set?”
Elizabeth nodded and held out her wrist. Her next dance was free and Darcy wrote his name on her card, then claimed two others. Elizabeth’s eyes widened when she reviewed his work.
“Shall we?” He took her hand in his and led her to the floor. “Mr. Collins tells me congratulations are in order.”
Elizabeth raised a brow. “That is not the same as giving congratulations or best wishes. Ought you not to say how happy you are for me?”
Although he hated deceit, when Elizabeth did not denounce an engagement, Darcy lied. “I am exceedingly happy for you.” Instead of a gnawing pain in the pit of his stomach, happiness diffused him as Elizabeth smiled.
“That is much better,” she grinned.
The dance pulled them apart for a few moments and when they returned, he could not resist gripping her hand a little tighter than usual and pulling her a little closer. “I would say or do anything to make you smile, Elizabeth. Do you not know this by now?”
The dance pulled them apart again. When they returned, Elizabeth’s lip was caught between her teeth once more. “I had hoped that was the case but I think you must not understand the easiest way to make me smile.”
“What is that?”
Separated once more, Darcy looked over his shoulder. Collins was no where in sight. What a fool he was to let another claim time with his treasure. As much as Darcy wished to make this his last time seeing Elizabeth as separating all ties with her would be easiest on his heart, he could not. That bumbling idiot could never make Elizabeth happy. He saw the lines of fatigue and anxiety on her face. Shadows under her eyes that had appeared during her father’s illness had not disappeared. Darcy would have to return to Netherfield with Bingley with the sole purpose to give her a reason to smile every day. Her favourite flowers ought to be brought from the hot house. A new copy of her favourite book would be acquired. Courting her would be impossible but allowing her to find a shred of happiness in each day was required of him.
As Darcy considered other ways he might offer Elizabeth said happiness and how best to manage his affairs from Netherfield, the steps of the dance returned them to each other.
“You asked me the easiest way to make me smile,” Elizabeth reminded him.
“You,” she whispered as the dance ended and they faced one another. “It has always been you.”
“What are you saying?” Darcy asked as he stepped closer to escort her off the floor.
“We must speak plainly.”
Darcy agreed and carefully directed her toward the balcony overlooking the house’s garden. “I would give anything to make you happy, Elizabeth, but I will not break my principles. You cannot choose us both—”
“I choose you,” Elizabeth gathered Darcy’s hands in hers. “I needed time and distance to firm in my mind what my heart had always known. I cannot sacrifice my happiness for the sake of others. Mama will adjust to living elsewhere. I know you will be kind to us and take care of my family. She need not fear the hedgerows.”
“Elizabeth,” Darcy breathed and raised her hands to his mouth. “I love you and ask that you accept my hand in matrimony. Will you have me?”
“Yes!” Elizabeth nodded and smiled. “I love you. Will you forgive me for being stupid and trying to be noble?”
“You should already know the answer to that,” he murmured as he pulled her close to him and wrapped his arms around her waist. “I will never be parted from you again. Wherever you want to call home will be mine as well. Whatever will ease your mind regarding your family will be done. I wish only to make you happy.”
“You do, Fitzwilliam,” Elizabeth said, shyly. “You do.”
“Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!” Darcy bent to kiss her and seal their love.
When they returned from the balcony, Elizabeth and Darcy could not conceal their smiles for the remainder of the evening. Upon announcing their betrothal to their friends and family, despite the protestations and screams of others, the smiles never left their faces. Years later, Darcy descendants would show each new generation the portrait of Darcy and Elizabeth, in which the artist perfectly captured their joyous grins, and tell of their ancestor who would do anything to make his beloved smile.