During this diatribe Caroline Bingley continued eating at a leisurely pace displaying a placid countenance.
Lord and Lady Matlock sat in astonished silence while the rest of the guests darted looks at Caroline Bingley waiting for the explosion.
Across the table, the General couldn't keep his eyes off Caroline and Darcy watched the scene unfold with interest. When at last Lady Catherine fell silent, Caroline lifted her eyes and the General moved his hand an inch or two towards Caroline. The movement gave her pause and she looked at him for a moment before her face relaxed into a smile and she finally broke her silence. "Thank you, Lady Catherine," she said. "So glad you enjoyed yourself. I look forward to hear what you have to say about the wedding on the morrow. I'm sure the participants will be delighted to hear from you on that most joyous day."
"Indeed, they would," offered Darcy. "I'm sure Mrs. Bennet in particular would love to hear your critique on her preparations for her daughter's marriages."
Laughter erupted around the table except for the Matlocks who had not been apprised of the feud between Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley and had no idea of what was transpiring at the table. They were just grateful that their hostess had not tossed a cup of coffee at their cantankerous relative.
The rest of the morning was uneventful. Anne was determined not to see her future husband until she met him at the altar so she was determined to keep to her rooms and Georgianna was delighted to keep her company. Anne had been relatively serene since her engagement to Richard, but now with her nuptials approaching so quickly, reality was beginning to set in. She had loved Richard for so long and now that he would finally belong to her she felt a sense of disbelief that her life was actually coming to this happy conclusion. Georgianna did her best to convince her that she was not dreaming and even threatened to pinch her at regular intervals if it would help. Anne declined this offer graciously and the two cousins collapsed on the bed in a happy heap grinning at each other.
Louisa stopped in after breakfast to see how they were faring and offering aid if it was needed but they were doing just fine. She stayed for a while enjoying their easy camaraderie and feeling a bit wistful that she and her sister had never been able to share such fun with each other. When they invited her to have lunch with them she accepted with pleasure. When Anne's fears once more came to the surface, Louisa did her best to allay her fears by promising that she would survive her wedding night and probably would wake with a smile on her face. Georgianna blushed furiously and Louisa apologized profusely for her unthinking lapse of propriety which threw Anne into a spate of giggles. This caused all three ladies to collapse on the bed grinning at each other.
Guy and Josh had walked into Meryton to check out the shops for any baubles which would please their fiancées The excitement of the coming weddings had made them long for the company of their own ladies. Their own marriages wouldn't be taking place for several more months and they wondered if they could possibly shorten their engagements. They bandied about various reasons they might offer to convince their future parents-in-law why they had to marry within a month instead five months. There was only one logical reason they could think of to hurry their marriages and that was unacceptable and might cause the death or maiming of both of them.
Lord and Lady Matlock leisurely strolled the grounds of Netherfield enjoying the scenery. In their minds Hertfordshire could not possibly compare in beauty to the wild peaks of Derbyshire but it did have it's charm. The weather itself was mild enough for November and at their age they appreciated the gentle autumn. They had enjoyed a marriage of five and thirty years and had borne three healthy children. The eldest son and their daughter had both married for money and had lived to regret it. Now their youngest was marrying for love and they were overjoyed. He was their favorite child, though they would never admit it, and they could see nothing but happiness in his future. As for Darcy, they would be fools if they didn't regret Elizabeth Bennet's lack of status or fortune, but to see their adored nephew so much in love and so happy with his Elizabeth couldn't help but move them. They felt a contentment that they hadn't felt in years. All would be well in their family.
Caroline went riding with the Red Fox. The first time she'd accepted his invitation to ride out with him she had been full of anger, disappointment and humiliation. She had been making a fool of herself for seven years and she assumed that Richard had apprised the General of the details of her failed attempt to marry Darcy. He had not. But not knowing this, she had thrown caution to the wind in her shame. She had broken all the rules of propriety and ridden out astride, racing across the meadow, the wind blowing through her hair, riding recklessly daring the General to be shocked. He wasn't. Contrary to all her expectations when they reached the ridge above Meryton and reined in to face each other, he couldn't hide his admiration of this singular woman. The next day, she had settled down. She could flaunt the rules of society just so far. It was back to the sidesaddle which she loathed and even feared and to her own surprise, she admitted this truth to the General. Once more, he surprised her by agreeing that the rules of society treated women poorly. She had to admit that the General intrigued her. He was like no other man she'd ever met.
When they came to a small glen they dismounted to let their horses graze but before Caroline took a step, the General took her arm and turned her away from the glen. "Don't look," he ordered.
A woman's curiosity can never be repressed and Caroline was unused to taking orders from a man, so of course, she pushed him aside and looked. What she saw caused her to gasp in shock and her face reddened in shame. Catching a couple in flagrante delicto was without a doubt something she never hoped to repeat, however, seeing herself as a woman of the world she attempted to disguise her acute embarrassment. "The next time you tell me not to look, she said, not daring to look at the General, "I promise I won't."
Hours later and in the privacy of her own room she poured herself a large glass of wine, her thoughts fastened on what she had seen in the glen. She was quite sure that the General would not recognize the couple but Caroline did and it was information that had the power to put a terrible pall on the ceremonies that would be taking place on the morrow. Indeed, it might even cancel them altogether.
Caroline shook her head in bemusement. Before Darcy's engagement, this was gossip she would willingly have shared with all of Herdfordshire. But not now. And to her astonishment, she realized that she had never once considered it. What on earth had happened to her? Was she a kinder and a more thoughtful Caroline Bingley? She laughed out loud at this reflection. She suddenly realized that her bitterness had diluted considerably.
Darcy, Bingley and Richard spent most of the day in the billiard room playing badly and pacing between shots. Darcy had absolutely no interest in playing games. His mind was at Longbourn as was Bingley's. Richard finally threw his cue down on the table, "this is impossible!" he shouted. "How can I practice my skills if I'm forced to play with a couple of idiots. If that isn't bad enough, I can't remember the name of my bride."
"It's Anne," Bingley observed, ever helpful.
"Charles," Darcy laughed, "do shut up. Richard is having an attack of the vapors."
"Good grief," Bingley replied. "Shall I call for the smelling salts?"
"I doubt," Darcy responded, "there's any left in town. Mrs. Bennet buys up all the salts the minute they're delivered."
"Perhaps the servants..."
"Enough about smelling salts!" Richard glared at both men. "I'm going for a walk," he said, and stalked out of the room.
Darcy and Bingley shared a broad grin. "So," Bingley said, "the fearless colonel is human, after all."
"Very much so. He's just a bit shell shocked. It took him a long time before he recognized that his affection for Anne had turned into something deeper.
Bingley laid his cue down, " I can't concentrate. I want to see Jane. Can't we visit them for just a few minutes?"
"No," Darcy replied glumly, "Elizabeth and Jane made it quite clear last night that we were not to go anywhere near Longbourn today. And it would be a poor start of our marriages if we went against their wishes. Despite the silliness of Mrs. Bennet and the lackadaisical manner of Mr. Bennet, we can't lose sight of the fact that their two eldest children will be leaving the comfort and protection of the only home they have ever known. I know they will be sorely missed by their entire family and I feel for all of them. I can't begrudge Elizabeth and Jane this time to show their family that they will always be an important part of their lives. In less than twenty hours their daughters will be handed over to two undeserving gentlemen who came to Hertfordshire one day and stole the hearts of their children away."
"Good grief, Darcy, this is Hertfordshire and not Hamelin and our dress is not pied but quite unassuming." Bingley smiled at his witticism and poured them both a glass of wine.
As the two friends sat in silence Darcy's thoughts wondered back to the the day he entered the bookshop and saw Guy Waltham standing there. He hadn't seen his old friend for several months and was delighted to see him. It only took a few minutes before they were chatting together as if a year had not passed. He could not guess how that chance meeting would change his life forever. And going back even further, if Guy had not taken pity on a young man who stood shivering in the December cold watching his father being laid to rest, he would never have taken that one extra step. And if Wickham had not abandoned his rooms at Cambridge...
Darcy shook his head at the vagaries of life. There were so many ifs in life it was a wonder that anyone found happiness. Make one false move and disaster lay before you.
"What are you thinking about, Darcy?" Bingley asked.
"Fate and destiny."
Bingley laughed, "I might have guessed it would be something deep."
"And might I inquire just how shallow are your thoughts on this day. Tomorrow at this time you will be a married man."
Bingley blanched and groaned. "I'm never going to make it, Darce. The mere thought of being alone with Jane in our bedchamber is terrifying."
"Think how she's feeling? She'll be alone with a man who thinks she's an angel. Just don't get any feathers stuck in your teeth."
Bingley's eyes widened, then he began to laugh and Darcy joined him. "You'll be fine, Charles. Millions of men and women have gotten through their wedding nights and come to no harm."
"There must have been some exceptions," Bingley allowed.
"And let me guess," Darcy said, gazing at his friend with affection, "you think you and Jane will be the exception." Seven years ago Bingley had been so young and inexperienced, almost childlike in his naiveté. Darcy had felt a need to take him under his wing and initiate him into the ways of the world. But that time was coming to an end. Bingley was a full grown man ready and willing to take on all the responsibilities of a man, yet he still doubted himself and Darcy wondered if he was at least partially at fault. He knew it was time to stop interfering with Bingley's life but habits were hard to break. He wanted Bingley to know the joy he himself was feeling on the eve of their weddings. By this time tomorrow Bingley would have to turn to his wife and not to an old friend. And that was a good thing. A very good thing.
Darcy hesitated for a moment not sure if he wanted to continue the conversation but still he felt a need to reassure his friend as it was the last time they would probably ever discuss matters of such a personal nature. "Charles, stop me if I'm out of line, but the truth is..." Darcy felt his mouth go dry and he took a large gulp of wine."
Bingley eyed him "out with it," he demanded.
"It's just that tomorrow is going to be a strain on all of us...from the moment we meet at the altar...to the time we blow out the candles."
Bingley frowned at Darcy's choice of words before understanding crossed his face. "I would never do anything to harm Jane," he said softly.
"Of course you wouldn't, Charles. It's just that I've heard so many savage tales of what can occur in the bedroom...even on the wedding night..."
Bingley interrupted Darcy, "I've heard the stories too," he said. He managed a smile, "I'm really not so much of a babe in the woods as you might think."
Darcy arched a brow, "really?"
Bingley laughed, "no first hand experience. But I hope I have enough sense to treat my wife with love and respect." Bingley took a sip of wine, "Darcy, are you uneasy?"
Darcy smiled ruefully, "I'd be a damned fool if I didn't feel some trepidation, Charles. I want everything to go just right."
"In other words you don't want to scare your wife to death. Or, have a fit of the vapors."
Darcy laughed feeling the mood lighten. "Exactly."
"Perhaps you should borrow some smelling salts from your mother-in-law."
In such a fashion the two old friends continued their raillery until the other male guests slowly trickled into the room to pass their time at the table.
After dinner the men lingered only for a short time before the party broke up. Darcy wanted to be alone with his thoughts and he suspected that the other grooms felt the same way. He took one cup of coffee in the drawing room then bid everyone a good night.
Darcy spent the next hour standing at the window sipping a brandy and peering into the darkness. Other than the knowledge that after that night he would never suffer another lonely night he wouldn't permit his mind to wander further than that. The future would unfold as it would and he was determined to make it as bright as it could possibly be. "Good night, dearest, loveliest, Elizabeth" he whispered into the night. "Til the morrow."
During the hour long sacrament at the church the servants of Netherfield and Longbourne had been busy tying hundreds of colorful ribbons to the trees and hitching posts around the center of town bringing a bright, festive air to Meryton. There were eight long tables arranged four on each side of the road, each bearing a large keg of ale and guarded menacingly by the burliest of servants. Word had gotten out that Mrs. Bennet had not forgotten the townspeople whom she wished to include in the celebration. The village was crowded with people and there was a joyful anticipation of the festivities. As the bells rang out signaling the end of the ceremonies, the doors of the local pubs swung open and waiters appeared bearing huge platters laden with hot meat pasties and fruit pies. A loud cheer went up and there was laughter everywhere.
Moments later when the carriage carrying Mr. and Mrs. Bennet made it's slow way through the crowd on the way to Netherfield they all cheered her wildly calling out her name. To say that Mrs. Bennet was confused at this turn of events is an understatement, but she smiled and waved much like she supposed a queen would do. After all, she had just married off two of her most deserving daughters to two of the most eligible bachelors in England. Naturally the town was excited and proud of her for pulling off such a coup. Mr. Bennet who had more sense, suspected that his new sons-in-law had a hand in it. He remembered Mr. Darcy promising his wife that after the wedding she would be hailed as the finest hostess in Hertfordshire. Mr. Bennet grinned and waved back at the crowds only slightly embarrassed at the silliness of it it all but still enjoying himself.
Next came the Matlock carriage. Lord and Lady Matlock surveyed the happy crowd with bemused expressions but waved and smiled graciously, pleased that the Bennets were so well esteemed in the village.
The carriages carrying the rest of the guests that had assembled in Herdfordshire made their way through the crowd to more cheers and best wishes.
The crowd continued to wait patiently for the three remaining carriages to come through and were at last rewarded by the sight of Elizabeth Bennett Darcy and her new husband, Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire. Their excitement erupted as girls ran out from the side of the road and tossed flowers at the bride and groom. All three carriages came to a halt and the celebrants stood up smiling and waving to the crowd. Hands reached up to touch the Bennet girls and wish them well. Elizabeth and Jane had known some of these people all their lives and they brushed away ready tears seeing the affection of old acquaintances.
Anne and her Richard were not ignored though their greeting was more reserved and respectful and they responded with broad smiles and shook several hands.
Suddenly the new husbands reached into the sacks of coins which had been stowed under their seats and began to flinging bright shiny pennies into the air. The children scrambled for the coins much to the amusement of the crowd.
Finally, Elizabeth begged the crowd to allow them passage through and the crowd obeyed immediately and moved back to the side of the road and the three carriages once more began to move towards Netherfield Park.
The ballroom at Netherfield was crowded with relatives and friends when the brides and their grooms entered the room. Tables along two walls were laden with a sumptuous feast of beef and ham and roasted birds and all kinds of salads, puddings and fruit. On the table opposite were punch bowls and bottles of sweet and dry wine as well as pitchers of ale. At the back of the room on another table sat three tall beautiful cakes each frosted with a different colored icing. There were flowers everywhere. In the corner, a string quartet played softly. It was magical and Elizabeth gripped her husband's arm tightly unable to speak as she took in the beauty of the room.
"Are you pleased, Elizabeth?" Darcy asked his wife.
Her response was a tearful smile and he was content.
For the next hour Elizabeth continued to hold her husband's arm while they circled the room making their way through the throngs of well-wishers stopping briefly to acknowledge each congratulatory greeting. She refused any food but finally accepted a small glass of wine. Darcy, ever watchful of Elizabeth sensed the strain on her. "are you feeling unwell, sweetheart?" he asked with concern.
She looked up at him with a smile and leaned close to him. "The next time we decide to marry, Mr. Darcy," she said "promise you'll whisk me off to Gretna Green and be done with it."
Darcy laughed in relief, "I promise. In the meantime, I would prefer to whisk you off to London."
"Whisk away," Elizabeth replied, "and the sooner, the better."
Darcy glanced around the room trying to locate Bingley. When he finally spotted him he nodded and Bingley immediately responded by whispering to Jane. Moments later the happy couple joined Darcy and Elizabeth. "Is it time?" Bingley asked.
"What are you two up to?" Elizabeth asked.
In reply, Darcy pulled out an envelope and handed it to Bingley. "You do the honors, Charles. And do it without too much ceremony. I don't know about you and your angel, but Elizabeth and I are anxious to be on our way."
Bingley led Jane to her parents in a determined way, followed by Darcy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth questioned her husband with a look but he answered her with only a smile. Bingley held the envelope out to Mrs. Bennet who ignored it and swarmed her two deserving daughters prattling away about nothing and prefacing every nonsensical remark with her daughter's new titles. Darcy felt Elizabeth begin to wilt and without ceremony he grabbed the envelope from Bingley's hand and forced Mrs. Bennet to take it from him. "Just a small gift from Bingley and me," he said.
In some confusion Mrs. Bennet stared at the envelope and didn't seem to know what to do with it. Fortunately, Mr. Bennet came to the rescue and took it from her. He opened it quickly, scanned the document, then with a piercing look at Darcy and Bingley, handed it to his wife. "It seems, Mrs. Bennet," he said, "that you no longer have to fear that you will be forced to starve in the hedgerows when I am dead. This is a deed to a house in Meryton and your name is on it."
She began to sway and the three men reached out to steady her, but she pushed them away, "I'm fine," she said, "just fine. And thank you, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley."
She lapsed into silence and looked around the room in a distracted manner before wandering off to station herself before one of the windows.
"Will she be all right?" Bingley asked in concern.
"She'll be fine," Mr. Bennet responded, watching his wife.
After a moment, Darcy reached into his vest and pulled out a small box and handed it to Mr. Bennet. "Just something from one bibliophile to another," he said.
The box revealed a watch fob of gold, exquisitely cut and engraved in the shape of a book. "This will give you access to our homes for as long as you want whether Elizabeth and I are in residence. And of course, will allow you to borrow as many books as you can carry."
Mr. Bennet thanked Darcy quietly unable to lift his eyes from the precious gift. "I must attend my wife," he said softly. You'll forgive me." He approached his wife, offering her a comforting hug.
Darcy and Elizabeth were the first two newlyweds to board their carriage still waving their farewells to the the family and friends standing on the steps of Netherfield. After making sure that his bride was tucked in and comfortable against the November chill, Darcy took the seat opposite his wife and signaled to the driver. Slowly their carriage began to make it's way down the wide path leading to the road that would once more lead them through the village of Meryton. As they approached the town another cheer of good will met them which they acknowledged with good humor.
"Oh, dear," Elizabeth said, "the trees have been stripped. There's not a ribbon to be seen."
"Looks like the ale is still flowing."
Elizabeth smiled, "this is a day that they will not soon forget."
"And how are you faring, my love?"
"It's a curious custom that we have. Make sure that the bride is thoroughly exhausted before she makes the journey that will change the course of her life."
"Was it very bad? Darcy asked with sympathy.
Elizabeth shrugged, "After just a few hours of sleep, mother had the entire household up at six o'clock. I suppose I'll eventually look back on this day with great joy. But the only joy I feel right now is being here in this carriage with my husband. And how did your morning go?"
"Oh, Bingley spent the morning flailing his arms about swearing he was going to swoon and would miss the ceremony. Richard paced and told him not to be a damned fool. Bingley argued that he was not a fool, and Richard continued to pace until the carpet had worn away. Then the floorboards wore away and Richard began to sink before our very eyes, still shouting at Bingley not to be such a damned fool."
As Darcy had hoped, Elizabeth laughed hardily at his silliness and began for the first time to visibly relax. With effort, he refrained from joining her, allowing her space and time to adjust to their new relationship. "Lean back and close your eyes, sweetheart. We have a good hour before we stop to change horses. A rest will do us both good."
With a grateful smile she didn't argue and did as she was told. Darcy took his own suggestion and leaned back and closed his eyes. He dozed intermittently as their coach distanced itself from the past three months and closed in towards their future.
During the stop halfway to London they were ushered into a private room and enjoyed mugs of hot chocolate and shared their first kiss of the day. "Are you happy, Elizabeth," he asked gently.
"Oh William," she sighed. Happy is such a dull word. Do you have any idea of how much joy you have brought to so many people today? I'll never forget the look on my mother's face. Her future is secure. And my father now has access to hundreds of books and a place to go when Longbourn becomes too much for him. And..."
Darcy stopped her words with another kiss. "I take it, the answer is yes?
"Yes," she said, gazing into those dark eyes that seemed to pierce her soul. "Yes, Mr. Darcy, I am happy."
She was standing at the window intent on the scene below when Darcy entered his wife's chambers for the first time. One candle lit the room but with the moonlight there was enough to see her clearly. Her gown was plain and unadorned and of the purest silk, it's translucence silhouetting her slender body. A matching robe hung about her shoulders. She heard him enter and beckoned him to her side. "Look, Will," she said. "It's snowing on London town."
Darcy moved behind her and wrapped his arms around her kissing her neck gently. Her response was immediate as she leaned into him and covered his hands with her own. "It's been quite a day," she said.
"It isn't over," he replied with another kiss.
She bowed her head then turned in his arms and touched his face with the gentlest of caresses. "Tell me about Pemberley," she said.
Darcy stared at her in confusion. From the moment he'd declared his love he wanted to tell her about Pemberley but she always put it off, wanting not to hear of it until she was a wife and the mistress of Pemberley. "You want to hear about it tonight? Right now?"
At her nod, he studied her for a moment, then, catching that sweet smile on her adored face, without warning he bent over and lifted her in his arms and swung her about then moved to the bed. Unfortunately her robe had fallen off her shoulders and as he moved towards the bed his feet got tangled up and he lost his footing and they fell in a graceless heap on the bed. Darcy let out a mild oath and Elizabeth dissolved in laughter. She pulled him tight against her. "Never mind, my impetuous lover," she whispered, "you can tell me about Pemberley in the morning."
With her words and the feel of her body against his he lost all conscious thought and allowed only his senses to guide him as his hands moved over her, his mouth capturing her mouth, feeling her passion arousing with every kiss, with every touch.
Her hands moved slowly across the planes of his back then up to his shoulders and down the corded sinews of his arms. Her hands continued to move fearlessly over his body and time stood still as their bodies seemed to assume an ethereal lightness that had no place on earth. She sighed softly as her hands touched his hips and ventured further down to his legs, awed by his strength. She began to writhe with a sensual pleasure moving her legs up to capture him. They began that slow dance known to lovers since the beginning of time. They took their time learning the intricacies of the steps and the rhythms that would make the dance their own. There were a few missteps, some stumbling, some laughter and an ecstasy that Darcy had only dreamed of.
He felt her body begin to constrict and her breathing grow short as her legs loosened their hold and she arched into him accepting all of him into the depths of her core. For a long moment her body stilled then she began to convulse. When she cried out his name his mind and body seemed to splinter into shards of fire and ice. Their movements turned violent as each sought domination of each other. Her fingers tangled in his hair, demanding his mouth but he refused to submit to her and instead his hands moved roughly over her body demanding her submission. His touch further inflamed her and once more she cried out his name. He wrapped his arms tight around her and took her mouth in his allowing her to taste him until in unison their bodies began to shudder in an ecstasy that was almost painful. "You have captured my soul," he whispered.
"I will take good care of it, my love," she whispered back.
And it was ever thus. Their passion for each other never waned but at times grew in intensity. For the rest of their lives their shared their bed and hearts and bodies and found any separation to be an agony.
Several days after their marriage, Darcy received a letter updating him on George Wickham. The news was not good. He'd been caught cheating at cards and his opponent took great umbrage with this deceit and punished him by breaking a bottle across his face. Darcy took no pleasure in the short visit he paid Wickham. Indeed, he was horrified at the change in his nemesis. A gash had widened his mouth and had healed badly, pulling up the corner of his mouth giving him a sinister smirk. He'd also lost a front tooth. No tradesman of any sense would ever extend him credit again. No women would ever again describe him as handsome and charming. Darcy had him released and handed him a check for five hundred pounds warning him that it was the last money he would ever receive from the Darcy family. He never saw George Wickham again.
Four months after his marriage, Bingley sent Darcy a reasonably legible letter imploring his friend to keep an eye out for another estate that he could buy. It didn't necessarily have to be in England, just as long as it was at least three days distant from Hertfordshire and Mrs. Bennet. In return for this assistance, he promised Darcy his first born child.
Darcy wrote back that he and Elizabeth had just returned from an adjoining estate that would be available in three month's time. He knew the estate very well and planned to buy it. However, if Bingley wanted it, he could have it. It was larger than Netherfield and with continued good management would prove profitable. He added as a post-script that he could keep his first-born.
Bingley wrote back in a script that Elizabeth helped her husband decipher. Bingley wanted to know when they could move and that Jane thanked him for allowing them to keep their first-born whenever that happy event occurred.
And now Elizabeth and Jane, in addition to every other source of happiness, were within fifteen miles of each other.
Time was extremely kind to the Darcy's of Pemberley. Within two years of their marriage Elizabeth presented her beloved husband with his son and heir and in the next seven years added to their family with two girls and a boy. Their children grew healthy and strong and were adored by their parents and in turn, were well loved by them.
Four and twenty years after that blessed day at the Meryton church, the servants found Mr. Bennet dead in his study, still clutching a glass of port in his hand, an open book on his lap. He had lived for for three and seventy years and in his passing there was comfort knowing he had died a happy man who was always welcomed at the homes of his two eldest daughters.
Mary had continued to live at home opting for spinsterhood. When her father died she moved with her mother into the house Darcy and Bingley had presented Mrs. Bennet. Five years after her husband died Mrs. Bennett gave one of her famous dinner parties. Afterwards she retired to her bed more that pleased with herself for the birds had been done to a turn and she had won ten pence at the whist table. She never woke up. Mary inherited the house and continued her moral studies. She still played the piano for no one had the heart to tell her that she was tone-deaf and listening to her was pure torture.
Kitty married the heir to Lucas Lodge and lived to a ripe old age with little incident.
Charlotte and Thomas grew wealthy and corresponded with the Darcys regularly for more than thirty years. Every year or two Charlotte promised that they would try to return to England for a visit but it never happened. Then one day Darcy read of a fearsome hurricane which had devastated the Caribbean Islands and they never heard from their old friends again.
Humphey Hurst met his end with an unfortunate accident. He had lately purchased a stallion who in his happiest state was known to be testy and irascible. When he was awakened in the middle of the night by Hurst trying to mount him from the rear, he grew murderous and stomped the upstart to death. Louisa took comfort knowing that her husband was probably in a state of drunken paralysis and never knew what kicked him. Despite what people thought of their marriage, Louisa did love him and mourned his passing. However, life goes on and two years later she married a wealthy landowner from Cornwall and lived happily ever after.
Caroline Bingley married the General and lived happily for the rest of her life on her husband's estate in Scotland. She never spoke of what she had seen in the glen in Herfordshire.
Darcy and Elizabeth brought Georgianna out into society and attended dinners and balls and entertained lavishly at their townhouse until their darling girl found the man she could not live without. Their job done, Darcy and Elizabeth returned to Pemberley and attended to the rearing of their children. The Darcys, Bingleys and the Fitzwilliams attended the the double wedding of Guy and Josh and became good friends of their brides Pamela and Prunela. Throughout the years their dearest friends and family were always welcomed at Pemberley
The years slipped by with the Darcys enjoying the theatre, concerts and other amusements that London had to offer. There were trips to the continent where they saw the wonders of ancient cities and sat at outside tables sipping coffee and watching the world pass by. In Florence Elizabeth picked up a large sketch of David and always playful, back at the hotel she had Darcy strip naked while she critically examined both the sketch and her husband. During her examination Darcy had narrowed his eyes following her every movement. It took her quite a long time before she decided that David couldn't hold a candle to Darcy. By then she was laughing so hard she couldn't escape her husband even if she had wanted to. He punished her severely much to her delight.
They shared so much laughter and passion and abiding love that when they entered a room all eyes followed them wistfully and with varied levels of envy. They showed the world what true marriage could be though it made little difference to London society. The wealthy and high-born still married for more money and status but always with a touch of sadness knowing they had years of misery or indifference ahead of them. But they had to be philosophical about it all for they told themselves that they had little chance of meeting that perfect soul mate.
Indeed, Darcy and Elizabeth never took their great luck in finding each other for granted. They looked upon it as a miracle and a blessing from God and they took great care in not abusing this gift. And so they lived happily ever after.
As for the couple in the glen it might be guessed who they were. And that of course is another story.