Summer 1812

Elizabeth had been enjoying a lazy morning during her stay in Derbyshire, she had not gone to bed until late the previous evening as the party had dined at Pemberley and not returned to the Inn until the early hours of the morning.

Elizabeth was deep in thought, thinking about how handsome Mr Darcy seemed lately. His looks in recent months could not hide his disdain for her and she felt his contempt acutely. Even that awful day in April, where he made a proposal of marriage. His declaration was filled with repugnance towards her status in life and an aversion to her most dearest family, no wonder she retaliated with gust.

However, from the moment of their first encounter in Derbyshire, he had taken on a whole new stance. It was softer, more human, undoubtedly less of his old imperious manner. Had he realised his behaviour was not that of a gentleman? Had her harsh words seeped under his skin and taken hold? Had it made him change his whole outlook on life?

Elizabeth concluded that she liked this new Mr Darcy exceedingly, she sighed at the thought of how handsome he looked in his finery but was brought back to reality by the maid, "Ma'am, if you please, the post has arrived."

"Oh thank you Hannah, I wondered why Jane had not written, two letters? Oh I can see the first was misdirected, her penmanship is very poor indeed."

Elizabeth sat down to read her correspondence, but on opening the first she was shocked to read that Jane had demanded her return as papa was gravely ill. Quickly opening the second she read that it was not looking good and that it would be unlikely he would last the week, the date on the express was only the day before.

Elizabeth was distraught, How could this be? Papa was as fit as a fiddle when I left only two weeks ago? With tears now streaming down her cheeks and with a heavy heart she called for the maid asking that Mr and Mrs Gardiner be found at once as they needed to return to Hertfordshire, without delay.

Within the hour they were aboard the carriage, bound for home. Elizabeth was heartbroken that her papa was unlikely to live and hope she would reach his bedside before he left this world. She knew that the trip home would take nearly two days, but there was nothing she could do, the horses were going as fast as they could and could not be pushed any further without risking life or limb. She wished she was a bird and able to stretch her wings and fly back into the bosom of her loved ones.

In their hurried packing, Elizabeth took a few moments to write a short note to Mr Darcy, she had a deep feeling that he would call upon them at some point during the day. He had been in their company ever since that first uncomfortable meeting at his home, so today would seem no different, he was bound to turn up.

Darcy had barely slept, he had laid awake most of the night. Visions of her fine eyes filled his thoughts, the one look that evening had caused such a stir in him, dare I allow myself to hope?

He woke that morning in a happy mood. Seeing Elizabeth comfort Georgiana after Miss Bingley's untimely mention of Mr Wickham made him all the more determined to love her. Georgiana had been playing the pianoforte after dinner when that woman had the gall to mention his name sending Georgiana into a fluster. Her intended victim had been Elizabeth, but this backfired and Georgiana was the one to feel the brunt of her harsh comment. Elizabeth had noticed this and returned to her side to comfort her, covering this act by turning the page to her music book and so diverting any curiosity away from the young lady, who was now trying to recover. At that moment Elizabeth looked up to see Darcy looking at her with so much love in his expression, his admiration of her was palpable, she could not misunderstand his feelings. Elizabeth's heart fluttered and she smiled back at him, mirroring his love. That was the moment that he realised he had a chance of happiness.

He dressed quickly and made his way to the small quaint Inn at Lambton with the intention of renewing his proposal, which had been so gut wrenchingly turned down the previous spring. He knew that he had to act now, whilst the iron was hot, he did not wish for her to walk away from him without declaring his feelings, he could think of nothing else except to have her in his arms, as his wife.

On his arrival, he expected to see the party readying themselves for the day. It was still early, but there was no-one around. Calling the maid he was told that the party had departed the previous hour and that Elizabeth had left him a note to explain in case he had taken time to visit.

August 7th 1812

Dear Mr Darcy

Please allow me to apologise for our abrupt departure from Derbyshire and your good company.

I received a very distressing letter this morning that my father has been taken ill and that he may not live past the week, as you can appreciate we have had to return to Longbourn.

Your kindness and generosity during our short stay has not gone unnoticed and was very much appreciated, I can only add that I am sad that it had ended so suddenly. Hopefully we shall cross paths again soon, as I will miss our new friendship.

Please convey my apologies to the rest of the party, in particular to Miss Darcy, she is a delight and you should be very proud of her.

Yours

E.B.

Yours? he thought. Oh I only wish I had been here earlier, she would have been mine if she had so wished it. Reluctantly, Darcy returned to Pemberley where Bingley was having an early breakfast.

"Darcy? Why such a long face, are you unwell?" Bingley said as he tucked into his meal.

"I am well, Bingley, please forgive me, I have just received some distressing news, I am going to my study," he said as he left the room. Bingley was concerned at his friends behaviour, he had not seen his friend in such a state since the previous year when he returned from Ramsgate. He decided to seek him out after he had finished his meal.

Half an hour later, Darcy heard a knock on his door and Bingley's head appeared from around the edge, "Is it alright to come in Darcy, I sensed earlier that you were rather upset over the news you had received," Bingley said hoping his friend would open up to him.

"I went to see Miss Bennet this morning and the party has left and returned to Hertfordshire as Mr Bennet is gravely ill, it is anticipated he will not live long."

Bingley was certainly moved by this news, Jane would be going through a terrible time and he was not there to console her. Even though he had not seen her since the Netherfield Ball some eight months previous, he still had feelings for her. He knew whilst in London, that he had made a faux pas in leaving his country manor and was eager to return. However, this news meant that he could not impose on the family, not at this time, they had more important things to think about.

Two days later, Mr Bennet passed away with Elizabeth by his side. The family were in disarray and not knowing what to do. Mr Collins took sympathy on the ladies and allowed them to stay at Longbourn for a few more months, stating that he would need the property in the new year. This was good news to the Bennet household as Mrs Bennet was inconsolable and her nerves had gotten the better of her in recent weeks. Jane was taken away from all her duties to look after her mother and the younger sisters were too silly in their ways to understand what was now required, so it was left to Elizabeth to sort everything out.