So, my dear friends, this is farewell, at least for this story. I have never dedicated a chapter before, but I feel it only appropriate, that I dedicate this chapter to all those who have read this story, reviewed this story, or found some enjoyment in this story.
And a second dedication--
...and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
-Romeo and Juliet, Act 3 Scene II
To my cousin--who sent me to a place where I fell in love with the night sky and saw a star that, in but a blink, lit the sky in its plummet. The tragic beauty that stole my breath and left my hands trembling and aching to reach out because I saw and understood the brilliance, but it was gone before I could fully grasp it.
Elizabeth and Darcy found all the comfort and elegance among their family party at Pemberley that they had sought before their marriage. Edward and Emma were soon joined by Anne, who favored her paternal grandmother in appearance but possessed Elizabeth's boundless vivacity.
Lady Catherine's reconciliation was brought on by neither her nor Darcy's initiative. Rather, it was Elizabeth who inadvertently led to a final compromise between her ladyship and her nephew. For after Elizabeth lost their third child, she herself nearly departed this world. Amidst Darcy's despair and Elizabeth's drifting, Lady Catherine arrived in all the flurry of her self-importance and generously shared her frank opinions in such a manner that Elizabeth soon regained her health, if not her spirit.
Her ladyship came to comprehend that she could not have her beloved nephew without his wife, and as Darcy was too dear to her for her to permanently disavow him, she, upon the rarest of occasions, capitulated without further protest or discourteousness. She treated Elizabeth with the highest civility and never again spoke against the young woman. Anne rapidly became one of her favorite great-nieces, for all that she reminded her ladyship of Mrs. Darcy in manner. Edward remained another favorite and she often doted upon the two children, contrary to her cautions against spoiling them.
Neither Darcy nor Elizabeth recovered quickly from their loss, but the Darcy family grew to include Bennet, Susan, Cassandra and Frederick. Both she and Darcy came to love Emma as one of their own, and she came to regard them as her parents. Lord Eaton maintained his promise to finance his daughter's care. He rarely visited or directly contacted his unattractive child, though he never failed to ask after her in his correspondence with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. When Lord Eaton remarried, he all but disappeared from the life of his daughter.
None was more grateful for the reunion between Mr. Darcy and his aunt than Mrs. Collins, for the security of marriage often tried the common sense Elizabeth had accused her of temporarily losing when she agreed to marry Mr. Collins. Yet she had her William and though he remained her only child, his sweet nature and love kept the bitterness of her plight at bay.
Occasionally, Mrs. Haverill, the former Miss Bingley, visited when Georgiana was at Pemberley or visited the Darcys when they took up temporary residence in town. Her visits grew less frequent as the family expanded and after the birth of Frederick, her only conversation was through correspondence with Darcy, who, with Mrs. Haverill's permission, shared her letters with Elizabeth.
Mr. Bennet continued to surprise those at Pemberley with his visits. His wife, left alone after the marriage of all of her daughters, frequented Meryton to gossip with her sister, Mrs. Phillips. Mrs. Bennet's nerves, which had been Mr. Bennet's companions for much of their marriage, began to fade as they had little to truly fret over, and with them, some of the foolishness that had so often made her an embarrassment to her eldest daughters.
Mary and her Mr. Stone lived their quiet life of convenience. Mrs. Bennet visited when she became lonely for her other children, though she often wondered in letters to Jane whether it was worth exertion, "for indeed, my dear child, I do believe my papered walls provide more entertainment than Mr. Stone."
Lydia and Wickham were little changed in their ways. As her family grew, Elizabeth came to mind Lydia's presence far less; there was far too much occurring for her sister's capricious nature to make a true difference. Though Lydia had returned to her former self, there were moments, when she had been away from her husband for several weeks, in which she would watch Elizabeth's children or her sister and Darcy with a distant, wistful look upon her face. It was in those moments, the ones that she witnessed, that Elizabeth recalled that Lydia had found a depth that had been absent for much of her life. Her sister's flightiness did not pose a weight then, for Elizabeth knew Lydia had finally discovered self-imposed boundaries.
The Major-general and his family were frequent visitors at Pemberley, as were the Bingley, Ashby, and Brighton families. The Gardiners continued to visit and enjoy the company of their niece and her husband.
The parks of Pemberley were often filled with the joyous cries of children, though none were permitted near the clearing that Darcy had given Elizabeth shortly after the birth of their first child. It was here that Elizabeth and Darcy escaped to savor the felicity of their union. For, for all the quarrels and disappointments that they had faced in their marriage, they had found themselves to be equals; it was in that equality they found their love. Their equality came not from their connections, minds, or wealth but in the form that one held the other to be the superior. That one valued the other's existence above his or her own for that superiority.