I’m one week down of semi-summer vacation. I allowed myself to be a little lazy this week and catch up some reading.
I also had to do a Covid-19 test for essentially no reason. Every professional I talked to agreed my very mild and short-lived fever and fatigue were likely from a combination of my MS and having taken Tylenol PM the night before. However, since I sort of displayed one symptom, am high risk, and my husband has been an essential employee working throughout this, it was recommended that I take the test. I could have refused, but then I wouldn’t have been able to see my neurologist. I’m overdue for my yearly exam/6 month check up and I also need a refill on my medication. All of this is complicated by the fact that I’m a new patient there but it’s been too long since my last neurologist has seen me so he doesn’t want to refill the prescription either.
Well, I was negative, as I knew I would be. Here’s hoping that I can get an appointment early next week and that everything with the prescription is taken care of quickly. If I do miss a day or two it’s not the end of the world. The prescription doesn’t manage symptoms, only the progress of the MS. So, it’s not likely that I will suddenly have an attack or feel worse in any way.
I am hoping that I can dedicate more time to this story in the coming weeks!
Excitement thrummed in Elizabeth as the carriage climbed a slight hill. They had reached Pemberley’s lands, and soon she would catch her first sight of the house. She gazed out the window, as eager as any child on their first journey.
“There,” Darcy murmured, and, at last, they reached the peak.
The woods cleared and below the hill in a little valley, stood Pemberley House. It was a beautiful stone edifice that Elizabeth knew she would take pleasure in sketching for the rest of her life. However, it was not just the building that awed. It sat on rising ground with a ridge of trees behind it. In front, the stream which followed the lane swelled in front of the house. If it were man-made, it was very well done. Here and there, bushes and trees were on the banks. Everything looked perfectly natural. There was no look of artifice about it. For once, Elizabeth very much wished she could do landscapes justice, for to draw Pemberley without its grounds would be but half the beauty.
“Are you pleased, Elizabeth?” Darcy murmured in her ear. “Shall you be happy to live here?
She turned her head to look at him, mindful that their sisters were in the carriage with them. “I love it. I knew I would as long as I had you by my side, but I could not be more delighted.”
Darcy, who seemed very amorous despite the presence of their sisters, raised her hand to his lips. “I have wanted to bring you home to Pemberley for so long now.”
Elizabeth sighed and rested her head on his shoulder until the carriage arrived in front of the house. Darcy exited first and handed down the ladies. The staff was outside to greet them. Introductions were given, and the housekeeper led them inside.
Elizabeth marveled in awe of the great hall as their outerwear was taken. Everything was exactly to her liking. It did not have the pretentious splendor of Rosings yet had more elegance than Longbourn. It felt comfortable and refined at the same time, much like its master.
They were shown to their chambers and allowed to refresh themselves. Mrs. Reynolds had stated dinner could be served in the dining room or on trays if they preferred. As they were all fatigued from their journey, they chose to dine in their rooms. Georgiana said she would keep Mary company so Elizabeth could relax. Elizabeth laughed to herself that she knew her husband would not let her do any such thing for quite some time. He had not enjoyed staying in inns and felt they had too little privacy to enjoy their usual relations.
Darcy guided Elizabeth through their private chambers, informing her she could make any changes she wished. She found very few things she wanted to alter, rejoicing in the light and modern feeling of the rooms. Soon, the bathwater had arrived, and she was able to wash off the dust of their travel. She did not linger in the tub or at her toilette, knowing that Darcy would wish to visit her soon. She had a few moments to herself before the arrival of her husband and their dinner trays.
They ate in their joined sitting room. Amongst the trays of cold meats and cheese were fresh fruits, which they took turns feeding one another between kisses and sly caresses. After their hunger and desires had been slated, Elizabeth sighed happily in her husband’s arms. They would have to return to London too soon with the added complication of Darcy taking his seat in Parliament. However, she hoped they could forget all the anxiety of the last several weeks and enjoy being newlyweds while at Pemberley.
The following morning, Darcy and Elizabeth decided to lounge in bed and have trays sent up. Georgiana and Mary had assured them that they could entertain themselves if they chose to spend the morning above stairs. A part of Elizabeth did feel guilty at not beginning her tasks as mistress right away and not seeing to her sister’s comfort in a new home. Such thoughts fled as soon as Darcy started trailing kisses on her neck.
Darcy and Elizabeth finally descended the stairs, arm in arm, sometime in the afternoon. They found their sisters in the music room working on another duet. As they played, Elizabeth’s eyes trailed around the room, taking in everything. She could hardly believe she was to be mistress of anything so fine. Every piece was of the highest quality, but nothing seemed stuffy or ornate. She had expected more formality in the room, and Darcy assured her many chambers were done so. Still, as they did very little entertaining, several rooms were designed for familial comfort.
The music room was not set up like the one at Rosings, where many small chairs were arranged around the grand pianoforte and the nearby harp. Instead, there were settees and chairs grouped in conversational settings. Elizabeth could see at once that Georgiana felt more relaxed in this environment than she did even at their London house. The pianoforte was not expected to be a point of entertainment, but rather enjoyment. While one person played, others could listen comfortably or allow it to be mere background music as they talked with others.
Elizabeth heartily approved of it. She could see Mary did, as well. Excusing herself from Darcy, who was reading a book, she approached her sister, who leafed through various music books. “How do you like the room, Mary?”
“I have never seen anything more perfect,” she said in wonder. “Oh, to spend hours a day in here without the constant reminder that one must practice only to gain a skill for performance.”
“You may spend as many hours in here as you wish. It is a magnificent instrument.”
“It is! Georgie plays extremely well. I know that my technique is quite proficient, but she excels with an emotion that I lack.” Mary shook her head and gave Elizabeth a sad smile.
“You surely never lacked the discipline to practice like I did. I do not recall our instructor ever talking about emotion in our lessons. He was always most concerned about the technique.”
“Yes, he was,” Mary agreed. “I think Georgie’s masters must have been a very different sort than our teacher.”
“If you would like, I can speak to Mr. Darcy about lessons for you. I am sure he would agree.”
“No, thank you. I would hate for him to have to spend more on me. He has been generous enough by allowing me to live with you indefinitely. I know there was talk from Mama about not being able to afford a London wardrobe for me in the autumn and that Mr. Darcy would pay for new gowns.”
“My husband is the most generous man in the world,” Elizabeth sent her husband a soft smile from across the room. “I know,” she said, returning her gaze to her sister, “he would not see it as an inconvenience at all. He has spared no expense for his sister’s education, and he sees you as more than just a sister by marriage. I do not know that we may find a sufficient tutor in Derbyshire, so it would most likely have to wait until we went to London again.”
“I do not know…”
“There is no need to decide just now. Let us enjoy the summer and see what you think in the autumn. If you would like, I can take lessons as well. My accomplishments certainly need improvement, and I like music enough to take the trouble.”
Mary grinned. “Ah, I see how it is. It is fortunate for you that I am here and not Jane. How should you like more instruction at embroidery? Or Kitty with her constant redecorating of hats?”
The sisters shared a light laugh. Elizabeth grasped Mary’s hand. “I have not said it before, but I am happy I had you with me in London. Jane would have refused to believe anyone’s behaviour was intentionally rude. Kitty and Lydia would have caused more anxiety than I could have born. Thank you for being a comfort to me when I needed one.
“I know I have not always given you enough attention. By the time you were old enough to play, I had been used to looking up to Jane. Then, by the time I was of an age to consider other people, Kitty and Lydia needed my focus. You were often alone, and I am sorry for that. I think you have found a good friend in Georgie, though.
“I have,” Mary nodded as her eyes shimmered. “Thank you for saying all that to me. I always knew my place in the family, but too often felt overlooked.”
“Regardless of what we were at Longbourn, the time has come for us all to take on new roles and take our places in the world. What will you be like now that you can be the only single Miss Bennet and finally be given your due?”
Mary paled. “Surely, Lydia—”
“We do not know what decision Lydia will make. For now, at least, you are the only Miss Bennet that will be out in society.” She tightened her hand around Mary’s. “I do not mean to make you uncomfortable. You shall only go to the events that you desire and keep Georgiana company when you wish to remain at home. Mr. Darcy and I will have to attend many functions, to be sure, but that does not mean you will. However, do not be surprised if you make many agreeable friends or catch the eyes of several suitors. You have much to offer, Mary, despite what our mother and father have made you think.”
Colour returned to Mary’s face with Elizabeth’s assurances. Still, she remained silent, only a nod from her head, indicating that she had understood her sister. Deciding that she would have to talk with her sister later about what has made her so uncomfortable, Elizabeth turned the conversation. “Have you had a letter from any of our sisters or our parents recently?”
“Yesterday was my day for a letter from Jane. I sent her our travel itinerary, as I am certain you did as well. Perhaps it was delayed for some reason. I am sure one of use will hear from her soon. I did forget to tell you that I had a letter from Mama just before we left London.”
“Did you indeed? What does she say?”
“Oh, she spends most of the time fretting about Papa. She is certain he will perish at any second, and then Charlotte and Mr. Collins will swoop in before he is even in the grave. She does not complain about the hedgerows anymore, though.”
“No, she would not, would she?”
“The rest is mere gossip about Lady Lucas and Mrs. Long. I can go and retrieve it if you would like, but she did say she would be writing to you soon.”
“Yes, it is my week, I think.” Mrs. Bennet had decided with five daughters out of the house, the only way she could not be a slave to correspondence was if she wrote to only one per week. “Well, Papa should write to me soon, as well. I am sure there is nothing to Mama’s concerns about his health. Mrs. Phillips would surely say so if there was. I wonder if Kitty writes to Jane, for I have not had a word from her.”
“No, me either. Shall I ask in my next letter?”
“There is no need to pass along a message from me. I am sure to hear from Jane very soon. She had wanted to hear all about Pemberley from me.”
The clock had just chimed the top of the hour when a maid entered the room. “Pardon me, Lady Darcy, but the luncheon you requested is ready.”
“Thank you, Maggie, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am.” The servant blushed and smiled.
“We shall be down directly, Maggie. Please thank Mrs. Baxter for me.”
Maggie bobbed a curtsy and departed.
Elizabeth turned to Mary. “We shall allow Georgie to finish her piece. Then, if you do not mind waiting longer for your turn at the instrument, I thought we could picnic in the garden today, followed by a tour of the house.”
Mary laughed. “I have already had a turn, but even if I had not, I would surely know better than to try and keep you indoors when you would rather be outside. It is just like you, Lizzy, to want to see at least a bit of the grounds before your house.”
Elizabeth chuckled. “It did occur to me to ask to see the entirety of the grounds, or at least walk about the park before touring the house, but Mr. Darcy tells me it is ten miles round. I fear that would be too much for you and Georgie.”
“Too much for us! It is a good thing you have married such an athletic man, for ten miles is more than I would suspect many a gentleman to withstand.”
Elizabeth allowed it to be so. The sisters returned to the grouping of seats nearest the pianoforte, where Darcy sat to listen to the last few minutes of the final movement of Georgiana’s sonata. When she had finished, the group removed to the garden to enjoy their meal.
“This area of the garden was my mother’s favourite,” Georgiana said as they settled in the chairs that had been placed in the flower garden. “How did you know, Lizzy?”
“Indeed, I did not know. It seemed the most beautiful to me, not only for the lovely flowers but also for the view. I quite like that vista over there.” Elizabeth pointed to a small hilltop that would not be too far to walk to or too steep of a climb.
“Father had intended to put a folly there, but died before he could,” Darcy said.
“Oh, do not tell me that you wish to mar the ground with one.”
“I confess, I had never thought about it. My mind was always on other estate matters too much to worry about altering the grounds. I had thought to leave much of that to my wife.” He smiled at Elizabeth. “What would you wish to put there?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “Or perhaps a bench or two so one may sit as they overlook the valley below, but you know I have no compunction about sitting on the grass.” The others chuckled. “I wished that I could sketch landscapes the way I can imagine buildings. I feel as though I have such an eye for natural beauty, and yet I cannot share the things I see with others.”
“We cannot be good at all things, Elizabeth,” Darcy said.
Elizabeth shook her head. “I know that! I am not saying that I wish I could be. Perhaps if I attempted lessons once more.”
Mary glanced at Georgiana. “Would this be in addition to the pianoforte lessons?”
“Well, it is not so unusual to indulge in a few things, is it? I enjoy both. Why not further my education?”
“Will you have time in addition to duties as a wife and with the Bluestocking Club?” Georgiana asked.
“Of course, I shall.”
“And what will you wish to do next, my love?” Darcy asked. “Voice lessons? Painting china? Learning Italian and brushing up on your French?”
Elizabeth blushed. “Do you think me very silly?”
“If you truly want to learn any or all of those things, I shall happily acquire masters for each. However, I have not heard you mention a desire to learn more about architecture. I recall before you agreed to become my wife, that was quite an interest for you.” He glanced at Mary and Georgiana as though they all knew what he was about to say. “You would not be attempting to hide behind new interests to avoid your real passion, would you?”
“You have found me out.” Elizabeth sighed. “I fear that Mr. Dance will say I have no skill. I would rather try and fail any other accomplishment on earth than be told I lack in the area that matters the most to me. Is that dreadful of me?”
“That is very normal, I think,” Darcy said as he laid a hand on Elizabeth’s. “We all fear failure. You are certainly in a position to feel failure more acutely right now. There is no need to rush the lessons with Mr. Dance. Or, if you would rather cast aside the plans for the Club—”
“Lizzy would not do that!” Georgiana and Mary cried in unison.
Darcy held up a hand. “If she has no desire to lead the Bluestocking Club, then they must find another hostess. Nor will I say my wife must join it.”
Shame burned in Elizabeth’s heart, she could no longer hide behind cowardice. “No, I do want to join. I sometimes doubt my ability to be their hostess. Perhaps I am uncertain of what that role would be like. I wish I had been able to talk to your aunt more.” She met her sisters’ eyes. “Nothing can convince me that the Bluestocking Club should not be recreated. Have not each of us seen the devastation that can happen when ladies feel all they must do in life is smile and be valued for their beauty either in face or skill?”.
“Do not forget about being sought only for their money,” Georgiana added while staring at her hands.
“Indeed!” Elizabeth cried. “I am unsure if I should lead the Club. However, we are many months away from any meetings. There is time for me to learn—and I begin to see that the best way to do that is not by attempting to excel in as many areas at once, but by being true to myself. That is my most fervent hope that we may teach the world.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Mary, if you wish to take lessons in London and if my being there would ease your nerves, then my offer remains. However, I admit it was silly to think that I should bother with art lessons of any kind.”
“And lessons with Mr. Dance?” Darcy asked.
“Let us wait and see if my time permits it. I never intended to design for others, and as you are in no hurry to make any improvements, there is no need to rush into overextending myself.”
“Thank heavens that is settled,” Georgiana said. “You began to remind me of Lady Catherine with statements regarding your good taste in areas but the inability to do them.”
Everyone laughed, Elizabeth most of all. They returned to the house for the tour. Elizabeth went to sleep that night extremely grateful for her family that could laugh with her and support her. She need never fear to be anything but herself with them. She was very blessed, indeed.