I’m rereading Sense and Sensibility, and it’s made me consider how many people do not like Edward Ferrars. Many a Janeite love Elinor because she seems to be everything a modern woman should be: serious, realistic, grounded, in control of her emotions, capable in a crisis, dependable, reliable. All the other adjectives. Elinor is #goals. I write that as a Marianne who grew up to be an Elizabeth. Yes, I was definitely Marianne at sixteen, and I spend a good deal of the book on each reread cringing at my similarities to Marianne. Someday, I’d like to be more like Elinor.
However, I think Austen ultimately makes it plain that you need both sense and sensibility in your life. Most consider Marianne and Elinor dual heroines of Sense and Sensibility. They each drive the plot, and we root for them both to overcome their obstacles and emerge victoriously. When you study it further, however, Elinor has very little character growth. Yes, she does gain some of Marianne’s sensibility. When danger is real, such as Marianne’s illness, Elinor feels it acutely. When it is revealed that Edward is not married to Lucy Steele and is therefore available, Elinor’s reaction is one of my favorite in all of Austen’s scenes:
Elinor could sit no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and, as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.
For Elinor, that’s an incredible display of emotion. If Marianne needs Colonel Brandon to temper her more sensational ways, then perhaps Elinor needs someone to draw out her emotions better.
When most people discuss the romance between Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood, they dwell only on things that make them believe Elinor deserves more.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve read (or perhaps you never have), Elinor and the reader know all along that Edward is dependent upon pleasing his mother to gain his inheritance. There has been quite the dispute about his future, and at his current age (24) there is little rush for him to decide. He prefers the quiet, country life and thinks leading a parish would be best for him. His family wants him to enter politics or have a great military career. Edward certainly knows his temperament better than his family does—he is shy and diffident, not the stuff needed to become famous. Although Elinor cannot help but fall in love with her sister-in-law’s brother, she cautions her heart from believing they could ever be together. Nor does she try to press any advantage she has when she believes Edward loves her in return. She would never ask him to defy his mother or give up a fortune for her.
Eventually, we learn that more than the familial expectations separate Edward and Elinor. He has secretly been engaged for five years! Elinor hears it from the woman herself, who certainly is revealing it to assert her claim on Edward. For months, Elinor bears the secret alone until it all comes out. Edward does the honorable thing and stands by Lucy, even when he is disinherited.
Elinor is upset to hear all of this, but she had always thought they could never be possible. We can examine Elinor more in another post.
Recently on Facebook, I made a connection between Edward and Marianne. Edward proposed to Lucy after a few weeks of infatuation and fascination. He was young and imprudent. He cared more for his own emotions than any logical arguments about marrying such a poor girl and one he had only (and secretly) courted for a few weeks—although it sounds as though he had met Lucy a few other times over the years. The sort of sensibility this would require does not appear to be very much like the Edward we have known over the course of the book. I suggest that this mistake—for he very soon realized it was—tempered him. Likewise, Marianne soon learns her mistake.
Edward, however, is not given the relief Marianne receives about understanding Willoughby better. Instead, he has dejected spirits for much of the book because he is not free from Lucy. Until the end of the book, he knows unless she calls the engagement off—which he doesn’t believe she shall because he can see how cunning she is—he will be stuck with her for life. All the while, he has since met other ladies worthy of greater respect and admiration, finally falling in love with Elinor.
As Elinor has no extreme moment offering her sensibility as Marianne’s illness shows her the use of sense and restraint, I posit that Elinor needs Edward. The sensibility he has in his character evident from his proposal to Lucy can be reanimated once he is free of her.
A secondary argument which readers often give is that Elinor should be matched with Colonel Brandon. While I argue that Edward will throw aside his melancholy after uniting with Elinor, I do not believe Colonel Brandon could be rejuvenated by her. When relating the story of his lost love to Elinor, he says this:
The shock which her marriage had given me,” he continued, in a voice of great agitation, “was of trifling weight—was nothing to what I felt when I heard, about two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was that which threw this gloom,—even now the recollection of what I suffered—”
Indeed, the events of twenty years ago affect Brandon so much that it would take more than Elinor’s cautious cheerfulness to return him to good humor. His true, abiding love and pain upon being separated from Eliza by unfeeling family cannot compare to the wounded pride and unease Edward felt upon realizing should not have not proposed to a Lucy. This does not even touch Eliza’s untimely and awful death which caused Brandon’s perpetual heartache and regret.
There are several couples in Sense and Sensibility we could see as an example of what the Steele-Ferrars marriage would be like. Mr. Palmer surely regrets his choice. Sir John and Lady Middleton are not well-suited. Edward even might succumb to Lucy’s influence, as his sister influenced her husband. There are many options for how Edward’s marriage to Lucy might have turned out and, while he might perhaps forever regret losing Elinor, it could be nothing to compared to the wretched pain that poor Colonel Brandon felt.
Colonel Brandon has not shaken off the melancholy sadness from losing his first love. Marianne adds a youthful quality and energy to Brandon, but Elinor is too staid to offer that. Instead, she needs someone who has not lived in depression for nearly twenty years. Elinor and Brandon have a wonderful friendship and a deep respect for one another but do not have the qualities either needs in a partner to live their happiest life.
If you judge a well-matched couple by their perfections, then perhaps Elinor and Edward don’t appear to suit. However, if you believe that the best couples balance one another and bring out their best attributes, then Edward has everything Elinor needs.
I first heard this song a few weeks ago and it’s been haunting me ever since. Just sooo much emotion. And it’s a tear jerker. Not safe for listening if you’re emotionally vulnerable or aren’t willing to cry. It’s the first time I really considered how hurtful some women can be during break ups. I just watched the video for the first time and I’m crying again! Can you guess which Austen couple this made me think of?
Why you gotta show up lookin so good just to hurt me
Why you wanna stop this whole damn world from turning
Why you hanging on so tight if this ain’t working
Why you wanna stop this flame if it’s still burning
Cause it’s still burning
So if you’re gonna break my heart, just break it
And if you’re gonna take your shot, then take it
If you made up your mind, then make it
Make this fast
If you ever loved me
If you go out tonight and get drunk and lonely
Wind up home alone
Please don’t call me
And say you miss me
So if you’re gonna break my heart, just break it
And if you’re gonna take your shot, then take it
If you made up your mind, then make it
Make this fast
If you ever loved me
Oh have mercy
If you’re gonna break my heart, just break it
If you’re gonna take your shot, take it
Oh if you’re gonna break my heart, just break it
And if you’re gonna take your shot, then take it
If you made up your mind, then make it
Make this fast
If you ever loved me
Mmmh if you ever loved me
Oh have mercy
Oh have mercy
Copyright Brett Young and Sean McConnell. Performed by Brett Young.
I’m so excited to be starting this series on my blog! I first started this series in 2015. For a time, I expected to release a few of these in 2016 and 2017 but my test run in the Regency Romance genre taught me how difficult it is to become visible. I had to focus on JAFF for budget reasons. My heart will always be in JAFF and about 98% of my story ideas start with the belief that the main characters are Darcy and Elizabeth. I have enough ideas to keep me writing in the genre for probably thirty years. However, I also have a creative desire to pursue writing that is not derivative of Jane Austen’s works but set in Regency England. Like Fantasy Friday, I will be going slow with this project. My goal is to have 500 new words each week. I won’t be publishing until all the stories are complete so this will take years. 🙂
I don’t have an official blurb for this story or this series. The premise of the series is that a group of school friends vowed to only marry for love when they witnessed its transformative powers on their most hated teacher. She, shockingy, becomes a duchess and is part big sister, part wise aunt as each girl enters the real world and finds how difficult it is to remain true to their ideals. I am mixing historical events from the Regency Era (1811-1820) with Romantic tropes.
The first novel, Tempting Scandal, will have a forced marriage and deals with Luddites (who you should recall from Sufficient Encouragement). Most of my stories will not have overlapping themes from my JAFF stories but this one does. However, it is not a rewrite (unlike Bridgewater Brides) so all words will be new.
I will also be using a different pen name. The last time I tried Regency Romance, I think it confused some readers and I mostly showed up with JAFF books. I’ve decided to keep Rose as part of my name for any genre I try. Harrison is after my hometown just as Fairbanks was after the town in Alaska in which I resided for a year.
That’s enough chat, don’t you think? Let’s get to it!
Sylvia Linwood scowled at the cobbled London pavement as she blindly followed her twin brother from their carriage to The British Museum. For one, she doubted the visitors who made their current passage so crowded had any mind for history and intellect. She had never seen a member of the ton show a sign of a brain in their well-groomed heads. Secondly, her brother had promised her they would leave for their estate this morning. Yet, here they were as far from their Yorkshire home as ever.
Owen was not a bad brother or thoughtless. He simply overextended himself while desiring to please everyone at once. The same morning he promised Sylvia they would return to Linwood Hall, he had told their friends they would meet at the Museum. If Sylvia did not care so much for her old school teacher, now the Duchess of Clifford, she would be more put out. However, Owen had a way of endearing everyone to him. His smiling face and sunny outlook on life had been their mother’s consolation while she lived and their father’s primary source of pride before succumbing to an early death. By contrast, Sylvia seemed formed to annoy both. Her mother bemoaned her daughter’s lack of interest in ladylike pursuits. Someone had to see to the estate. Mrs. Linwood had been too frail and Owen too fond of leisure and company. The ladies at Almack’s would have a heart seizure if they knew Sylvia acted as land agent for her brother.
“Keep up,” Owen called over his shoulder.
Sylvia had to take two steps for his one. “It is not as though I do not know the way,” she mumbled under her breath.
Some ladies, or rather all as she glanced around her, she supposed would walk arm in arm with their male escort. Sylvia had no notion for the tradition. Owen was nearby, and the streets crowded enough that she could not be accosted without witnesses or assistance. She had no physical malady requiring the aid of a gentleman’s arm. If they walked together, he must awkwardly slow, or she must rush. It suited neither of them. Besides, she had gone to the Museum countless times over the last four seasons. She knew every shop by heart. Nothing but an unlikely and sudden storm would surprise her.
A wall emerged before Sylvia, and before she could move aside, it crashed into her. A yelp escaped her lips as she stumbled backward. To ease her fall, her hands reached out to grasp anything they could.
“What the devil?” the wall spoke as the sound of fabric ripping garnered his notice.
He turned, and Sylvia was jerked by the motion and stumbled once more. It was a man, she realized. He grasped her by the forearms.
“Unhand me!” He pushed against her arms and almost threw her down.
“Sylvia!” Owen came running up to them. “You there! Stop him!” He shouted as he ran. “He has got my sister.”
A crowd circled around them just as Owen arrived. Why had no one come to Sylvia’s rescue? The man had quit attempting to toss her around, but Sylvia’s mind lagged with confusion and exhaustion from the exertion.
“Sylvia,” Owen panted between breaths. “Are you well? Why did none of you help?” He glanced at the witnesses. “Have you no common decen—Your Grace!” Owen hastily bowed.
Sylvia gasped at her brother’s words, and her eyes flew to the man with whom she wrestled. Taking in the expensive fabrics and fine tailoring, she let go of his sleeve so quickly she finally fell backward. Pain seared her backside as the crowd laughed.
September 26, 1811
Sitting at the desk in his London townhouse, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s hand shook as he attempted to read Bingley’s note. Determined to not display his anxieties, Darcy paced around the room. Finally, he sat in a chair and browsed an agricultural report until his friend arrived.
Ten minutes past the correct time, the butler announced Bingley’s arrival. Darcy stood to greet him.
“Darcy, it has been an age. I was sorry to hear Georgiana felt poorly the whole summer and we could not meet. How does she fare now?”
Darcy managed a small smile as both men sat. “It is always good to see you. My sister is much recovered, thank you. Tell me about this estate you have leased. Hertfordshire, is it?”
Bingley gave Darcy a curious look. “If you know that much, then you have read my note and know it is called Netherfield. You also know it is quite close to Longbourn, which you should recall…”
“Yes, as the Bennet estate.” Darcy paused. Tumultuous emotions rioted in his body. As his heart pounded a blistering headache formed. “You cannot blame me for not being able to read through all these blots.”
Bingley smiled at the tease. “Will you come and visit? I know your feelings on the Bennets, but it has been five years.”
Darcy closed his eyes as painful memories threatened to intrude. Shaking his head to clear the thoughts, he opened his eyes and met Bingley’s. “Yes, of course. We must all move forward with our lives.”
Bingley gave an ebullient smile and waxed long on the house and its situation. “Louisa and Hurst will come, and Caroline will be my hostess. Will you bring Georgiana?”
Fear and rage temporarily clouded Darcy’s vision. Regaining control, he answered, “I…I will leave it to her to determine.”
Bingley openly gaped at his friend. “You will allow her to decide?”
Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Of course. She is growing older and must have some independence. I cannot order her life forever.”
Bingley nodded approvingly, then turned serious. “I have attempted to keep in contact with the Bennets over the years, did I ever tell you?”
Darcy shook his head. “No, you have not. You must have worried about bringing up such a painful subject.”
Darcy picked at imaginary lint on his breeches. “What news have you heard?”
“Scarcely a thing. Mr. Bennet only replies around twice a year. In October and then usually in June…” Bingley trailed off for a moment. “They are all quite well.”
Darcy smiled a little. “I can imagine he enjoys telling tales of his grandchildren.”
Bingley’s brow furrowed. “Darcy…all the girls are still at home.”
Darcy’s head jerked up.
Bingley continued as though he noticed nothing. “I cannot imagine why. I have never met a more angelic creature than Miss Bennet, and Miss Elizabeth was quite pretty as well. The men in Hertfordshire must be blind or stupid.” Then he paused, and a solemn look crossed his face. “Or perhaps five years has been slow to heal their pains as well as ours.”
Darcy could only nod his head. The two men, now masters of their homes, sat in silence for several minutes.
Bingley stood and clapped a hand on Darcy’s shoulder. “I will be escorting Caroline and the others on the Fourteenth after the house is ready for visitors. Will you ride with us then?”
Darcy flinched and then agreed, “Certainly. Apollo could use a good stretch.”
The men said their farewells and Bingley departed. Darcy walked back to his desk and picked up Bingley’s note again, this time with determination. “It is time.”
Don’t kill me! The title should give the theme away. Darcy and Elizabeth are reunited after years of separation. What happened to them? Why has so much time passed? We’ll get answers next time but what are your guesses?
What does Elizabeth think of the Assembly and Darcy? Can they get along better in this magical world?
While Jane and Bingley danced, Elizabeth sat out due to the absence of partners. She had not minded and was busy watching the new neighbors. Mr. Darcy had caught her eye early in the evening, and she now amused herself imagining his inner thoughts as he circled about the room with an expression of disdain. His strong jaw was firmly set. Now and then someone bumped into him and his face contorted. She was busy wondering if the spasm was an expression of revulsion or pain when Mr. Bingley left his second dance with Jane to approach his friend.
“Darcy! I must have you dance!” Mr. Bingley’s face was flushed from the heat of the ballroom and the exertion of dancing.
Mr. Darcy looked amongst the crowd. The baker and his wife promenaded past, and Elizabeth thought she saw his lip curl.
“I loathe dancing with strangers. Save your sisters I do not know a soul here.”
Elizabeth found that strange wording but was too taken with the rest of their conversation to pay much heed to it.
“I have not seen prettier girls in my life!” said Mr. Bingley and he turned his whole body to look at Jane.
Darcy loosened his cravat and then stared at his gloved hand while responding. “You are dancing with the only beautiful one.”
Bingley grinned but shook his head. “No, there is her sister just behind you. She is very lovely and quite amiable too. Let me call Miss Bennet to introduce you.”
Elizabeth’s breath caught. The last thing she desired was to be inspected by Mr. Darcy. She reminded herself she had no reason to want his good opinion, all the same, she wished she had worn a different gown or spent more time on her hair.
“Which do you mean?”
Darcy looked over his shoulder and his eyes locked with Elizabeth. Perhaps it was just from the peculiar inspection, but she had the strangest feeling settle in her at that moment. First, she felt heat, then a chill. He quickly tore his gaze away.
“She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me. Return to your partner and enjoy her smiles for you are wasting your time with me.”
Although she felt like a puddle after the riot of feelings meeting his eyes gave, Elizabeth’s courage always rose to every occasion of intimidation. The minute Darcy walked on to find fault with another dancer, she promptly left her seat and retold the scene to her closest friend, Charlotte Lucas.
Charlotte laughed at Elizabeth’s description of the haughty interchange. Once calmed, she whispered into Elizabeth’s ear, “His eyesight must be weak for him to make such a remark! My mother and I have just the tonic which would help him…”
Elizabeth sincerely doubted such a specimen of a man could have any fault so mundane as weak eyesight but laughed at the image provoked. She imagined Darcy with a quizzing glass which magnified objects tenfold and yet he still needed to bring items close. Perhaps he might mistake a dirty stocking for a posy and sniff it.
“Oh, Charlotte! He is too proud to want any of your homemade tonics or even to admit to such a deficiency at all. I daresay he is entitled to his opinion, and I could much easier forgive his pride if he had not wounded mine.”
Charlotte’s sharp eyes met her friend’s. “Was it your pride or your vanity, Lizzy? Did he affect how you think of yourself, or only what you want everyone else to think?”
Elizabeth scoffed. “As if I care what the neighborhood thinks of me!”
“Little more than you do what a stranger thinks of you? I am your dearest friend, and I know the truth. You desire to project the image of a quick-witted and lively, pretty girl. You dislike close examination.”
Elizabeth shook her head. Her dark curls dancing at the movement. “You would not understand, Charlotte. I’ve always felt so…different than the other girls.”
Miss Lucas was saved the trouble of replying by the arrival of Jane. She was astonished at Elizabeth’s report of Mr. Darcy.
“I cannot believe he meant it in that way!” Jane’s blue eyes went wide in shock and disbelief. “Mr. Bingley is the friendliest man I have ever met, surely his friend must be as kind. No, you shall not laugh me out of my opinion no matter how much you roll your eyes at me, Lizzy. You must have misunderstood Mr. Darcy.” Jane could be firm where she believed herself right.
Mr. Bingley approached, ending the conversation. He asked Elizabeth for a dance but spent every other possible moment talking with Jane, ensuring he was in the same set as her. Elizabeth was too happy for her sister to feel slighted. As the evening wore on, however, it seemed Mr. Darcy was always watching her. Finding more fault with her, she assumed. She did not care about his close inspection.
At one point, Mr. Bingley’s younger sister was led to the dance floor by Darcy. Her orange silk gown floated around her in an almost magical quality. At first, Elizabeth admired the dress but believed it did not flatter Miss Bingley’s complexion. Additionally, her nose quite literally stuck in the air lest she suffer from the aroma of her fellow dancers. Elizabeth watched Miss Bingley cringe before touching every other partner. If Mr. Darcy’s eyes wandered, Miss Bingley would say some joke, judging by the way she laughed at her words, and Mr. Darcy’s lips tilted up in a small smile. Elizabeth suspected snide comments being made and hoped someone in Miss Bingley’s set would trample on her train. Elizabeth grinned at the possibility then immediately felt guilty about what Jane’s reaction would be.
Rolling her eyes at herself, she turned her attention to her sisters. Kate danced with Henry Tilney, and Elizabeth smiled to herself as the gentleman made her younger sister laugh. Kate had just come out a few weeks earlier, and Elizabeth applauded her parents for allowing their other daughters of close age out even while the eldest remained unmarried. Elizabeth happily saw her sister’s first ball must be everything a lady needed. For once, Elizabeth did not even regret Kate’s fanciful imagination. Growing too warm, she stationed herself near an open window until Mr. Bingley collected her for their set.
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.