I’m sorry it’s taken so long to load a new chapter. My husband started a new position for his job and is traveling a lot. My daughter was also sick for half of this week. If you remember, we left off with Darcy confessing his love for Elizabeth, and she was rather upset to hear it. We’ve got another chapter from her point of view to understand more about her feelings. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Elizabeth and Darcy remained silent while the maid set the tray down. Finally, she left, and Darcy wiped Elizabeth’s eyes with his handkerchief.
“Please tell me those are happy tears,” he murmured.
Elizabeth attempted to smile. “I am sorry,” she whispered with her eyes cast down. She could not bear to look at him. Was she breaking his heart?
“It is well,” he said and squeezed her hands. “I had not thought you returned my affections. Perhaps in time…”
Dread filled Elizabeth. She did not think she could love him. He was certainly deserving of it. However, she felt empty. When her father died, a part of her died with him.
“I apologise for making you uncomfortable. I had not intended to tell you this evening.”
“I am disappointed in myself,” Elizabeth said, still unable to meet her husband’s eyes. “I know I ought to love you. I had thought you proud and unkind, but I have seen in the last few weeks how generous and selfless you are. A queen could not have better treatment than I.”
“I do not wish for you to love me out of obligation, Elizabeth.”
She did not know what to say. She had not tried to love him, but it had not developed naturally either. She had known she owed him gratitude all along, and if that did not inspire love, then what would?
“Let us eat, and then I will allow you to sleep.” Darcy stood and made a plate for Elizabeth, then one for himself.
They ate in silence. Elizabeth had no appetite but decided eating was easier than talking. When they had finished, Darcy gathered Elizabeth’s hands in his and slowly stroked his thumbs over them. He placed a kiss on her forehead. “Rest now.”
When he stood to leave, Elizabeth clutched his hand, a desperate fear overtaking her. “You are leaving?”
“I did not think you wished for my company. I can see how exhausted you are.”
“I—I do not mind if I am kept awake for a little while. I slept much of the time you were away.”
“Very well.” Darcy looked at her with concern. “I could read to us.”
“I would like that. Do you have a reading preference?”
“Before sleeping, I wish for something which does not require much attention.”
“Perhaps a novel?” Elizabeth reached for her book on the table next to her bed and placed it in Darcy’s hands. “I enjoy reading them before bed. They help my mind relax.”
Darcy opened the volume to her bookmark.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Reading to you.”
“I had thought…I had thought you would do it in bed…”
Darcy stared at her for a moment, and she blushed. Did he not say he wished to always sleep with her? Indeed, she had found joy in their marital relations. She may not love him, but she enjoyed being his wife. Did he no longer want her in that way?
She peeked up at him. Darcy closed the book and slowly walked around to his side of the bed. He removed his boots and breeches before climbing into the bed. Elizabeth cuddled to his side, and Darcy wrapped an arm around her. A happy sigh escaped her lips.
Her head lay over his heart, and she focused on its steady beat and his deep voice for several minutes. Darcy trailed fingers up and down her arm while his other hand held the book. By the end of a chapter, Elizabeth could bear it no more and reached up to kiss him.
She did not love him. Not yet…and perhaps never. She did not have the words to describe what she felt. All she could do was show with actions how dear he was becoming to her. He had told her on their first day as husband and wife to feel instead of think. Following that instinct, she welcomed her husband into her arms.
In the morning, Darcy allowed Elizabeth to sleep late. Still, upon waking, she felt lingering fatigue. Around noon, after she was dressed and had eaten a small breakfast, Darcy asked if she would walk with him about the garden. She hesitated. For one, she worried that walking would exacerbate her fatigue. Secondly, she thought spending time with Darcy would be even more awkward after his confession. In the end, she agreed, just to see him smile. However, they spent the first few minutes of their walk in silence.
“Were my sisters in the drawing room when you left?” Elizabeth asked.
“I had been sitting with your mother, but I was told that your youngest sisters walked to Meryton with Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.”
“They have quite surprised me with their grace and friendliness.” Elizabeth sent Darcy a sheepish smile. “Now, I do not wonder so much how you can bear their company. I suppose it just took some time to see their good qualities.”
Elizabeth gaped, and Darcy chuckled, his eyes shining at the tease. Despite knowing he had meant the words playfully, Elizabeth took a moment to answer seriously. She placed her hand in his. “I do see your good qualities now, William.”
He placed his free hand over hers and gave it a squeeze. They continued down the path for a few more minutes while Darcy talked about his task for Mr. Gardiner and the intention of creating dowries for Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Although he had not said he was adding funds, Elizabeth thought he avoided the topic too neatly. She would ask her aunt, but would not be surprised at all to learn that he took on even more responsibility. This was just one example of why Elizabeth should love him.
“May I ask you a question?” she asked her husband.
“Certainly. I will do my best to answer.”
“Why did your feelings change? I had thought our marriage was not a love match. I have said and done things which were cruel if it was so.” Mrs. Gardiner’s words about Darcy’s potential feelings echoed in Elizabeth’s mind.
“I do not blame you for anything you said or did. I do not know when my feelings began to change. I was slow in recognising them. Perhaps they were obvious to me last of all.”
“Except for me,” Elizabeth added. “I thought you were only exceptionally kind and civil. I compared your treatment to Mr. Bingley’s.”
Darcy laughed. “Bingley’s behaviour must always cause trouble when contrasted with my own. He is always in a better mood and easier in the presence of others. Did you forget, though, that he is in love with Jane? Of course, he would offer Netherfield to your family!”
Elizabeth shook her head and chuckled as well. She really should have considered that fact. “Do you think he would not be so friendly if others were in such a position?”
“He might offer them to stay as guests, but he would not take such an interest in their affairs.”
Not as Darcy had done. She mistook Bingley’s concern for affability and his affability for affection. Bingley did not display his love for Jane by his constant smiles. He did that for everyone. He showed his love for Jane by taking care of her family.
Darcy had not really answered her first question as to why his feelings changed. Was it something she had done? Did she unconsciously demand love from him? For that matter, he had yet to seem happy about the situation. She chose not to push for any more answers, uncertain she wanted to hear them. Instead, they talked about other matters, such as Pemberley. When she had returned to her room to rest before dinner, it occurred to Elizabeth that what they spoke on was not just a dull list of things. Such as, explaining which flowers were planted in the gardens of his estate, exposed small revelations about Darcy. In his own way, he was attempting to allow her to learn more about him.
Why had he not remained true to their agreement? Theirs was to be a marriage of convenience. If Elizabeth had any notion that Darcy might fall in love with her, then she never would have agreed to it. At least with Mr. Collins, she knew any feelings he had were entirely imaginary.
She considered what she knew of love. She had always known it was more profound than infatuation. Still, she expected that giddy and nervous feeling before seeing the object of her desire to be stronger when in love. If she were in love with a gentleman, then she would always wish to be in his company. She would never tire of his presence. They would have much in common and feel similarly about all essential matters, lest they be as unequally balanced as her parents had been. Love should be simple and easy. They would never be vexed with one another.
She had known enough about Darcy to see that they had some similar likes. She believed they would respect one another and become good friends. However, Elizabeth had never once thought they could be of a uniform mind on really any topic or situation. Darcy was so headstrong that she could not imagine him ever merely agreeing to her opinion or method. Likewise, she had too much pride to go along entirely with his. What they seemed to excel at was compromising. Friends and business partners compromised. Did lovers? Jane and Bingley never seemed to. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, the married couple whom she most admired, did not appear to disagree on matters.
When she considered her present feelings for Darcy, she sighed in disappointment with herself. She enjoyed being his wife. It comforted her to know she could rely on him while she grieved for her father. Something about his presence soothed and relaxed her. However, her heart did not skip when he was near. She sometimes missed him, but in the way she missed a familiar friend or her family. It was not that she anticipated seeing him. Her mind was never cluttered with thoughts about him. Although she found Darcy attractive, she never caught herself woolgathering over his eyes and smile.
Elizabeth wished she knew how to make herself fall in love with Darcy. Love was like a fire that could not be contained. It was supposed to consume one’s heart and soul; it must begin with a spark. She feared she had missed such a moment with Darcy.
She had never truly tried to love him. A fear niggled in the back of her mind, but she pushed it aside and resolved to love her husband. She would begin when next she saw him—or should she seek him out? That would be the more lover-like thing to do, would it not? Exhaustion still nipped at her, and the torrent of nerves and emotion did nothing to help. She should rest now, and court her husband later.
At dinner, Elizabeth focused conversation on her husband.
“Did you see Georgiana while you were in Town?”
“Yes, although not as much as she would have liked. I dined with your aunt and uncle on my first night there. I was astonished at how much your cousin Emily favoured you in the portrait done by Miss Lucas.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Yes, Emily does take after me. We are unsure though if she will turn dark-haired like me or remain blonde like her mother and aunts.”
“Yes, Mr. Gardiner said that while your features were very much from the Gardiner side, your colouring was more like the Bennets.”
“Grandmother Bennet had fantastically dark hair, even in her old age. Papa had barely any gray at all, but then perhaps he was too young.” Elizabeth felt her smile falter. Why could she not put thoughts of her father behind her? Thinking about him now when she ought to be falling in love with Darcy made her feel guilty.
Her husband laid a hand atop the one in her lap, which had fisted her napkin. He gave it a gentle squeeze, and a fond smile lifted his lips. Perhaps he did not mind that she was sometimes overcome with grief.
Elizabeth cleared her throat. “How about you? Do you take after the Darcy or the Fitzwilliam side?”
“When you meet my family, I think you will see for yourself. The Fitzwilliams have very strong features, and the Darcys have strong colouring. I, like you, am a mix of both.”
The image of a dark-haired son with Darcy’s blue eyes popped in Elizabeth’s mind for a moment, bringing a smile to her face. “What about your sister?”
“Ah, she is a Fitzwilliam through and through. Apparently, all Fitzwilliam women are blonde and large blue eyes.”
A fond smile played on Darcy’s lips, making Elizabeth’s grow. If she could imagine their children and their future, perhaps that was one step closer to love. “She sounds stunning. I suppose she will give you trouble with suitors soon enough.”
Darcy’s smile slipped, and his brow furrowed, leaving Elizabeth to wonder what she said that would alter his mood so much. She watched as he gazed at Lydia and Kitty, a concerned look overtaking his features. Did he think they were too wild? He must regret being cooped up in the same house as them for so long.
Elizabeth attempted a few other topics for conversation, but nothing sustained their interest. Thankfully, Miss Bingley soon stood, signalling that the ladies should depart for the drawing room. Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief at the separation. She scrutinised Kitty and Lydia as they played cards. They were not as boisterous as they once wore. Now and then, they even looked to Caroline for an example of how to behave. Elizabeth saw nothing that should worry Darcy.
She attempted to shrug his behaviour off and focus, instead, on reasons to love him. When the men entered the drawing room, Elizabeth firmed her resolve. Recalling how he had watched her while she sang at Netherfield during Jane’s illness, Elizabeth asked Caroline if they might have music. Choosing the same song as she had played that evening, Elizabeth seemed to have made the correct choice as Darcy gazed at her with affection in his eyes. There, was that not what a loving wife would do?
As she got ready for bed that evening, Elizabeth considered her next move. Other than initiating a few kisses, she had only followed Darcy’s lead with intimacy. Over the last few weeks, he had scrutinised her every reaction and now knew exactly how to please her. She intended to return the favour. Tonight, she would dote on him instead.