I’m sorry it’s late today but here’s chapter seven! I’ve probably made the most actual changes to this chapter, just fleshing out some dialogue and emotion. I had a lot of lines straight from Canon and decided to scrap that.
There’s an epilogue after this which weaves into Mr. Darcy’s Impertinent Daughter!
Elizabeth had felt Darcy’s disapproving stare on her when he came to the dinner party before Lydia’s wedding. Several weeks ago, Elizabeth had convinced herself that he admired her and was even humble enough to be interested in her when she had no lofty connections or dowry. Now she knew he was too honourable to stoop so low. Every just feeling must repel the thought of becoming related to Wickham and of attaching himself to a family now touched with scandal.
Although Lydia did not actually engage in anything awful with Wickham, Elizabeth was not at all convinced her sister never would have if given a chance at a later date. What man of sense would bring such a stain to his family in exchange for Elizabeth’s sharp words and wilful misunderstandings? She felt as though she could never speak to Darcy again.
It was now six weeks since Lydia had married Wickham, and Elizabeth had taken to solitary walks to Oakham Mount, even in the cold early December weather. She required peace to imagine a life as Mrs. Darcy. It was not fine carriages and jewels of which she dreamed.
For many weeks now, she had comprehended that Darcy was precisely the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. He was not terribly like her, but she esteemed his intellect and calmness of mind. She recalled how he sometimes teased with her, and he managed to lose his reserve. So it would not merely have been a marriage of love but would have benefitted their minds. Now it could never be due to the union between Lydia and Wickham.
Elizabeth was left only with bittersweet memories of a shortened acquaintance. Jane was recently engaged to Bingley, and while Elizabeth rejoiced for her sister, she painfully realized that she might be thrown into Darcy’s path again due to Bingley’s connection with him. First, pain seared her heart when she thought of witnessing him marry and have children. Then, unconsciously, tears began to fall on her face.
She could not explain it at all. She had always been sensible, and yet, somehow, she found herself in love with a gentleman she only knew for a matter of days. What started as a vague inclination and admiration for his intellect grew into a stout love.
Recalling her words to Georgiana, which now seemed so long ago, she confessed her love for Darcy was not based at all on the excitement of his attention. She had not seen him or heard a thing about him in over a month. She was confident she could not be further from his thoughts. However, with Darcy, she had never known a more remarkable friendship, for she felt at leave to be her true self. She felt cherished.
Elizabeth had tried to stop her regard from growing. She knew he could never return it; even if he did, matrimony would not follow. There were too many barriers between them and on such a short acquaintance. He owed his family name much more than she could ever bring, especially now. She loved him too much to ask that sacrifice of him. Sometimes it seemed the more she attempted to end her foolish fancy, the more it grew.
After a good cry alone on the peak, she resolved to think of it no more. Darcy was not to belong to her, and there was nothing to be done for it. Melancholy and sadness would not change a thing. She was not some silly and ignorant girl to be so crossed in love to allow an acquaintance of mere days to affect her entire life.
Upon her return to Longbourn, she noticed a grand carriage in the lane. A tall and foreboding woman elegantly dressed and who might have once been handsome strutted angrily towards her.
“You must be Elizabeth Bennet. They told me I could find you outside as you scampered about the countryside like a wild hoyden!”
Elizabeth was not in a mood at all to be so insulted by a stranger. “You have me at a disadvantage, for you know my name, but I have yet to learn yours.”
“Such impertinence! I am Lady Catherine de Bourgh, of course! You must know I can see through your games. Two days ago, I was told that your eldest sister is to be married beyond anything your family could have hoped for. Even more astonishingly, it was reported that you would soon be united with my nephew, Mr. Darcy! I know it must be a wicked lie, and I insist at once upon having it universally contradicted. Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?”
“Did you not just declare it to be impossible? Why did you come at all then?” Elizabeth recognized the lady’s name as her cousin’s patroness. She supposed the Lucases had written to the Collinses, and some speculation about Elizabeth and Darcy had been made.
How dare they! They base this off one well-chaperoned carriage ride? The man stayed in the area for two days, then left for weeks and returned only for my sister’s wedding.
“You may have enticed him with your beauty and playfulness. However, I am nearly the closest relation he has and am entitled to know all of his dearest concerns.”
“You are certainly not entitled to know mine.”
Lady Catherine began to turn red. “I have never been treated so rudely before! I will speak with you plainly. This match you desire cannot take place. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter.”
Elizabeth felt a moment of discomfort at this information. Still, she recognized it was similar to what she was told by Wickham, who was entirely discredited. Her belief in Darcy’s honour reigned prevailed, even if she had no reason to hope he would truly offer to marry her.
“If he is betrothed to your daughter, then why would you fear he would make an offer to me?”
“The engagement is irregular and has been planned in the family since their births. Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his relations? Have you no respect for his intended, my daughter, Miss de Bourgh? Where is your sense of propriety? He has been destined for his cousin their entire lives.”
Elizabeth testily replied. “Yes, I had heard it before, but never from Mr. Darcy. Why should I care about people that I have no connection to? The facts, as you have shared them, are that you wish for him to marry your daughter. Presumably, others in the family want it as well.”
“His own mother wished it!”
“But not Mr. Darcy. If he has never proposed or voiced a preference for Miss de Bourgh, then he is free to choose as he wants. If I am that fortunate lady, why would I not accept him?”
“Even if you can disregard honour and decency, it is against your own self-interest. No one will ever acknowledge you in the family, and you would be shunned by London society.”
Elizabeth scoffed. “Well, as my heart simply beats for your approval, as this interview must be evidence, I do not know how I would survive with such animosity. However, I think being the wife of Mr. Darcy would have millions of fantastic reasons for happiness on its own. I am willing to believe they could offset the misfortune of your hatred.”
Lady Catherine’s eyes bulged in rage. “You foolish child! Why would you grasp at his sphere? There are plenty of prosperous tradesmen for you to marry.”
Elizabeth straightened and spoke coolly. “Do you not now stand on my father’s estate? Mr. Darcy and I are equals.”
The other woman sniffed. “Your mother and her relations are not. I am well-informed of their situations and the fact that you often spend time with an uncle who lives near Cheapside! Cheapside! Shall Mr. Darcy have such connections?”
Elizabeth feigned nonchalance, although the argument was fraying her nerves. “It is his choice, madam. If those connections make him happier than what you can offer him, then you must abide by his decision.”
Elizabeth’s companion seemed to have lost all patience and forthrightly demanded information. “Tell me once and for all, are you engaged to him?”
And people call me impertinent! “I have no matrimonial plans at present.”
The older woman heaved a great sigh. “And you never shall have any towards my nephew? Do you promise that?”
“I cannot promise that.” Elizabeth met Lady Catherine’s eyes before adding, “I believe our conversation is at an end. Come this way.”
Elizabeth began walking back towards Longbourn, but the lady called out after her.
“I know all about your youngest sister’s scandalous marriage! A compromise and then the man would not even marry the tainted goods. He had to be enticed by money from your father and uncles. Is that girl to be my nephew’s sister? Shall the son of his father’s steward be his brother? Would you pollute Pemberley with such stock and make him such a disgrace?”
Although incensed and insulted, Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief that Lady Catherine only knew the story explained publicly about Lydia’s marriage. Thankfully, she and her informants did not know the truth of Darcy’s involvement.
Not stopping for an instant, she only called back, “Bravo! You have every possible method of insulting me! Since you insist on being so unkind, I will return to the house without you, but I will never bow to your whims.”
“This is your final word! Very well. I know what I must do. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that your wishes will ever come to pass. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable, but it makes little difference. Mr. Darcy would never stoop to you.”
The woman talked on in such a manner until they reached her carriage. Then, she turned to Elizabeth and declared, “From this day henceforth, the entire Bennet family shall be an anathema to us, and you will recall this moment as the day you ruined your family’s reputation.”
Elizabeth mutely turned on her heel and walked into her house with her head held high, ignoring her family’s demands to know of the visitor. She did not regret a word she said to Darcy’s aunt, only that she expressed herself so freely and rudely.
I very much doubt he ever wanted me in the first place, but above it all, I have now insulted his aunt. Oh, I am such a headstrong, foolish thing!
Darcy sat in his London study, having just received a letter from Bingley detailing, between blotches, his engagement to Miss Jane Bennet. He begged Darcy to return to Netherfield with Georgiana and spend the holidays with Bingley and the Bennets. Caroline would remain in Scarborough, and the Hursts would spend the holidays at the Hurst family estate. Bingley desired the company of his closest friend for the festive season.
Darcy intended to decline the invitation. He could not bear to see the look of contempt or sadness in Elizabeth’s eyes. He was uncertain how to even maintain his friendship with Bingley as he was marrying Elizabeth’s dearest sister. Darcy lost himself in memories of Elizabeth and the Gardiner children but was jolted from his reverie due to a commotion in the hall.
The door to his study flung open, his butler nervously hovering behind Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
“It is well, Smith.” Darcy tried to reassure his servant that he knew his aunt had made his job impossible.
“Of course, it is well.” Lady Catherine’s voice boomed. She settled herself in a chair, and the butler quickly exited and closed the door behind him.
“Aunt, how may I be of service?”
“I have come to put an end to the most slanderous gossip. I have just come from Hertfordshire, where Miss Bennet would not satisfy my inquiries. Obstinate, headstrong girl!”
Darcy was perplexed. “What is this gossip, and how may I end it?”
“Announce your engagement to Anne immediately, and all shall be rectified.”
Pushing his chair back, Darcy surged to his feet. He met his aunt’s eye, knowing he should have made this plain long ago. “I shall not. There is no engagement. There never shall be an engagement. I will not ever marry Anne. You must accept this.”
“You would cast aside your duty in favour of a match with this upstart without family or fortune, whose very sister is married in a patched-up affair to the son of your father’s steward?”
“That is enough, madam! The Bennet family is entirely respectable and the victims of malicious slander. Additionally, I owe my family no duty but to marry prudently, and Miss Bennet would be a most wholesome match.”
“You are then resolved to have her?”
“Certainly not. She is betrothed to my best friend, Bingley. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which constitutes my happiness without reference to you or anyone else so wholly unrelated to the matter.”
“No, not Bingley’s bride! The impertinent one. There were too many for me to recall their names. However, you are no better than she. The unreasonable girl would not oblige me in vowing that any engagement between you two is impossible. I know it must be so; you could never be taken in by cheap arts and allurements.”
Darcy could barely breathe. Elizabeth would not refuse me?
Lady Catherine thumped her cane on the ground, drawing Darcy’s attention back to her. “Darcy, the gossip is wild with a match between you two. Anne even has a letter from Georgiana hinting at the idea. That set me off more than mere gossip from my parson’s family. Georgiana needs a proper model for her coming out. You cannot possibly attach yourself to the Bennet family!”
Georgiana sent a letter to Anne? Now, that is inventive! Touché, little sister!
“I am deeply offended for my friends’ sake, as well as my own, madam, that you have intruded upon my private affairs and have made horribly unjust accusations. You shall not be permitted in my homes again until you can make a full apology to the Bennet family, especially Miss Elizabeth.”
Darcy called for his butler to escort the ranting Lady Catherine from his townhouse and quickly wrote a reply to Bingley. He sent it by express. He and Georgiana were off for Hertfordshire at first light the following morning.
Tearstains marked Elizabeth’s cheeks as she slowly walked up Oakham Mount. After Lady Catherine’s visit, Elizabeth could not keep her resolve to put Mr. Darcy behind her. She came here to remember the last time her heart felt whole. She heard steps behind her, and then suddenly, Darcy stood in front of her.
“Elizabeth,” he breathed her name as though it were a prayer.
She could not believe her eyes or ears, and she was angry at her traitorous heart and her mind for imagining him calling her name. Still, astonishment and relief washed over her at the sight of him. She truly hoped he was real.
“Please, my dearest, do not cry.” Then he took out his handkerchief and tenderly wiped all remnants of her tears away.
At the realisation that Darcy was not a phantom, her tears changed to joy. Then, laughingly, Elizabeth said, “I am surprised to see you here, Mr. Darcy. I had heard you did not mean to return to Hertfordshire for quite some time.” Then she gave him an impish grin. “Whatever has happened to your obstinacy, sir?”
“As it turns out, I was given new information to change my convictions.” He smiled slightly at the ease of their banter, “I had an unexpected visit from my aunt.”
“Oh, yes, I did as well.”
“Something she said gave me hope when I thought there was none to be had. I can never forgive myself for allowing such a villain to harm your family. However, if you were not merely espousing false opinions for a debate with my aunt, then I must tell you how earnestly and passionately I admire and love you.”
He bent on one knee, taking her gloved hands in his, and Elizabeth gasped.
“If you will have me; if you give me your hand, I promise to make you happy and aspire every day to earn your love and respect. Only you can make me the happiest of men. Marry me?”
Although Elizabeth still wondered how he could possibly offer for her due to Lydia’s marriage to Wickham, she did not doubt his constancy. She was his choice, somehow, and she knew he would never waiver from it. So there was no need to ask her question at the moment. Instead, she needed to reassure him of her own heart.
Gingerly, she touched Darcy’s cheek. “Do not dare blame yourself for his actions! You are the most honourable man. Yes, William. I will marry you. You already have my respect and love. Only you can make me the happiest of women.” Elizabeth smiled as Darcy grinned. She tenderly caressed the dimple that emerged on the cheek she held, sighing at the contact.
“Elizabeth, I have a confession to make. I heard you speaking with Georgiana about love months ago.”
“Oh, William! We will have to add to your list of faults! You should never eavesdrop!”
Darcy smiled at her tease but persisted with his agenda. “I can think of only one thing to add to your list of understanding infatuation from love; ardent love, that is.”
“And what is that, sir?”
“The future. I have imagined you as the mistress of Pemberley from almost the first moment I saw you. Then, as you played with the Gardiner children in Hyde Park, I suddenly envisioned my own children for the first time. I knew they ought to have a mother like you. Learning your character as I have has only shown me that my first instincts were correct. You are the only woman for me, and I cannot imagine my life without you.”
“You did not return, and when you did, you avoided me. I know what you have done for Lydia, but I thought you detested the idea of a connection to Wickham.”
“I thought you hated me. How could you ever forgive me for bringing Wickham into your family? I could never deserve you.”
“My William,” Elizabeth said as she laced her arms around Darcy’s neck. “I could never hate you. It is I that cannot deserve you. While I battled with your aunt, she said everything my heart ever feared. But now, I must add two more things to my list for true love. First, we must forgive each other and ourselves. Second, we should never live in fear. It has no place beside love.”
“I vow that as long as I have you by my side, I will never let fear rule again. Perhaps that has been my greatest flaw of all. What a lesson you have given me, Elizabeth. How I love you so!”
They embraced for several minutes, with their foreheads leaned against each other, breathing the same air. Excitement thrummed between them, both knowing they were on the precipice of a great adventure with the person that understood them above all others. Then, at last, they separated and returned to Longbourn arm in arm, ready to begin their journey toward forever.