Chapter 1

March 1811, London

"Lizzy, come down! It is time to leave!"

Elizabeth Bennet put down her book at the sound of her Aunt Gardiner's voice echoing from down the stairs. She got up from the bed where she had been reclining, and made sure her dress was not wrinkled before she went downstairs to meet Jane and her aunt and uncle, who were waiting for her so that they could go to the theatre.

Lizzy sighed in some regret, thinking about her book. It was written by someone who named herself simply A Lady. Elizabeth was enjoying the story, although she thought that the sensible Elinor was more fit for Colonel Brandon than the flighty Marianne.

Still, she was looking forward to the theatre. They were going to see a new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. She had never seen it performed on stage before, although she had read it.

When they all got into the carriage, she noticed how well Jane looked tonight in her white gown. Well, Jane always looked beautiful. At age nineteen, Elizabeth had resigned herself to being the less beautiful sister, but it did not make her jealous of Jane or make her love Jane any less. Indeed, she rejoiced in her sister's beauty. Jane was so sweet and kind, she deserved every good thing.

As they settled into their seats at the theatre, Elizabeth looked around her. Mrs. Bennet had sent them to London partially to enjoy themselves, partially to find husbands. The matron had calmed considerably after Lydia and her twin brother, John, were born. Having an heir to the estate made her feel secure for the first time in her marriage. Still, she wanted the best for her daughters, and she knew Jane and Elizabeth would not find husbands in Meryton. Mr. Bennet had become less lax in his stewardship of Longbourn since his son's birth, and had been able to provide modest dowries for his four daughters. Mary and Lydia, at seventeen and fourteen, were too young for marriage, but Elizabeth and Jane each had a £5,000 dowry.

Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed the play. The antics of Puck and the foolishness of Bottom made her laugh aloud through each scene. She had read all of Shakespeare's plays, but this was perhaps her favourite of his comedies. As she laughed, she did not know that another patron of the theatre was watching her bright shining eyes, and enjoying her laughter more than the antics onstage.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy sat with his parents and younger sister in their box, his eyes on the brown-haired beauty with sparkling green eyes. The blond-haired blue-eyed woman beside her certainly surpassed her in looks in a classical sense, but there was something about the brunette's laugh that enchanted him. He wondered who she was. The two young women were with an older couple, clearly people of fashion; yet they did not have a box of their own.

"Fitzwilliam, come. It is time to go," said his father, Mr. Robert Darcy. "What has you so distracted?"

The younger Darcy looked up to see that the play was indeed over. His parents and Georgiana were standing in preparation for departure. As they moved down the hallways to the entrance, he looked around to see if he could spot the brown-haired sprite, but she was nowhere. Disappointed, he followed his family out.