A Star Danced
Happy chapter time, guys! There is an author's note at the bottom, if you're interested.
"I don't know why I am so nervous," Elizabeth whispered, as she walked with Darcy down the hallway. They were preparing to announce their engagement to Mr. Darcy. He would be the first to be informed. "But my hands – they're trembling. I feel as though all the blood has drained from my body which is queer because my heart is pounding like mad."
Darcy held out his hands for her to inspect. They, too, were shaking. "I can't see why we're both so nervous. Especially considering we have such good news." They had reached the door to Mr. Darcy's bedchamber. Before knocking, Darcy turned to Elizabeth. "Now, Lizzy, we've got to really try, right? I mean, we must be absolutely convincing."
"Doubtless we'll startle poor Uncle Willy-Ben into utter bemusement. To go from mortal enemies to betrothed in one day! I can scarcely believe it myself."
"We were hardly 'mortal enemies,'" Darcy said, "and my father is accustomed to surprises. He's been in your company these three years. Although," he said, suddenly pulling a face, "I did inform him that nothing in the world would ever induce me to forgive you. Doubtless that will add spice to the surprise."
"Dear Lord, Darcy, you are dramatic! 'Nothing in the world would ever induce me to forgive her,'" Lizzy said, in her best pompous-Darcy accent. "Have you ever considered writing for the stage?"
"I have at least five-and-twenty lurid scripts of intrigue crammed into my desk in Cambridge at this very moment," he replied. "Now, Lizzy, give me your best endearment."
"Must we be lovey-dovey and coo at one another?" Lizzy asked. "We are neither of us very sentimental people. I don't think Uncle Willy-Ben expects too much of us. We don't want to overdo things, after all."
"Shall I call you sweeting? My heart's darling? My precious cabbage?" Darcy aped an affected simper.
"Refer to me by any of the aforementioned and you might find yourself lacking a tongue," Lizzy retorted, pulling a decidedly unladylike face.
"Duly noted. I shall be slow of speech and tongue," he said, knocking softly at the door. A faint, "Come in," and they entered the room. Mr. Darcy was sitting up in bed, a book opened upon his lap. He wore his smoking cap crooked rather rakishly atop his head. A pair of spectacles hovered on the tip of his nose.
"You are looking very Confucian today, Uncle Willy-Ben," Lizzy said, settling herself comfortably on the edge of the bed. She patted the covers down, smoothing them. Light poured in through the windows, making the room cheery. Georgiana and Lizzy both had taken care that it should never have the close, cramped, confined, and stuffy atmosphere of a sickroom. "Have you any pearls of wisdom to bestow upon us, poor unenlightened fools that we be?"
"I hope that the pair of you are not unenlightened! I have paid a great deal to ensure that you should not be," Mr. Darcy teased. He put aside his spectacles. "Why are you both so fidgety? And have you made up yet? Hmm?"
"More than made up, Father," Darcy said, seizing upon this opportunity. He had not expected such an opening so early into the conversation. "I have asked Lizzy to marry me, you see."
"To marry you?" For the first time in all of her years of knowing him, Lizzy firmly believed Mr. Darcy to be truly incredulous. He could not have looked more surprised. "Dear Lord, Darcy! I did not think you would take my advice so literally…"
"Are you not pleased?" Lizzy asked.
"Oh, my dear child, of course I am pleased," Mr. Darcy said, touching her hand, "this is exactly what I have desired all these years. I have plotted to see it done! I just never expected it to fall together so quickly. When in blazes did the two of you make amends?"
"Only last evening, Father, in the sitting room," Darcy explained. He had seated himself beside Lizzy and taken her hand in his. They both felt this proximity keenly. Lizzy felt a blush blooming and fought madly to maintain composure. Darcy attempted to control the shaking in his hands, knowing it was due to more than any nervousness on the part of his father's reaction.
Mr. Darcy observed this hand-holding closely. He scrutinized both Lizzy and Darcy's faces, attempting to gauge the authenticity. Little did they know how he was on to them! He could look into their faces and so easily see the attempted deception. How doubly deceived were the pair!
"Do we have your permission, Father?" Darcy heard himself asking.
"My permission! What a question to ask! Of course you have my permission, Fitzwilliam. If I had the strength, I do believe I should get out of this bed and do a jig. As it is, however, I must content myself with wreathing myself in smiles. There now, Lizzy, is this not a beauteous smirk?" And Mr. Darcy smiled toothily, making Lizzy laugh.
"That, sir, is a prize-winning smile. I could not have endeavored to do better myself."
"Well, and when is the wedding to be, eh?"
"As soon as we can manage it, Father. I thought of even obtaining a license so that we did not have to wait for the banns," Darcy said. He retained Lizzy's hand.
"Hasty to the wedding are we?" Mr. Darcy said, raising an eyebrow, "though, yes, I encourage this. I assume you are rushing ahead due to…well, my imminent demise, to speak plainly…" He ignored the pained looks on both Darcy and Elizabeth's faces, brushing smoothly ahead to say, "I want nothing more than to witness the ceremony myself. Do you think we could manage it?"
Darcy and Lizzy exchanged glances. Mr. Darcy had been bedridden for some time.
"Oh, I am not dead yet," Mr. Darcy said. "And going into a churchyard would do me a world of good. Besides the fresh air, I might have a peep into the graveyard. But enough of morbidity! We have a wedding to attend to!"
This was exactly the reaction Darcy and Lizzy had desired. The news of their engagement had worked wonders on Mr. Darcy. His color rose; he was animated, ebullient… "I shall get out of this bed!" he declared stoutly, throwing back the covers and flinging his legs to the floor. "I am perfectly capable of walking. I have only been allowing myself to rot away like a particularly lazy cantaloupe."
"Steady, Father," Darcy said, giving his father his arm, "do not strain yourself. You have no need to prove anything." Mr. Darcy leaned heavily against his son, but he did manage a few s steps. This spurred his confidence – he placed less of his weight against his son, taking only his arm to steady himself. Very slowly, he began to take small steps on his own. These took obvious effort, and yet, buoyed by his success, he brightened perceptively.
"I suppose we should have decided to become engaged ages ago," Lizzy said, as Mr. Darcy threaded his arm through hers, "for all the good it has done you in these past moments."
"Lizzy, my Lizzy, no need for 'supposes.' You are engaged now, and my business will be to see that you are wedded as promptly as possible. I will not have either of you renege. Especially not you, Lizzy, as I know how fickle and tell-tale you are." He patted her arm affectionately. "My mercurial girl. You shall be made to marry before you change your mind."
"Yes, well, I suppose I shall have to walk the plank sometime," Lizzy replied, "and Darcy will do as well as any other man."
"Thank you," he said, "I do believe that is the sweetest thing you have said to me all afternoon."
"We do not believe in cooing at one another," Lizzy explained to Mr. Darcy. "Endearments are not much in my line."
"No, indeed, my dear," he said.
"Expletives and curses are much more her style," Darcy said.
At this moment, Georgiana chose to fling herself into the room and seize hold of Elizabeth. "Married!" she cried, taking her by the waist and waltzing her around the room. "You are to be married, Lizzy!"
"That is the general plan," Elizabeth said, somewhat surprised at all this effusive roseate happiness on the part of her young friend. "Listening at keyholes again, George?"
"I learned to do so from you, Lizzy!" Georgiana said, flushed and happy. "Please tell me that I will be a bridesmaid?" She returned Elizabeth to Mr. Darcy and fell, laughing, against her brother.
"You and Jane both," Lizzy said, "and you are to wear whatever color you please excepting puce."
"And what shall you wear, Lizzy?" Mr. Darcy inquired, "I should have you looking as fine as Princess Charlotte herself! You are to be a Darcy, my dearest of dear Elizabeths, and must be suitably attired. We will send you down to London immediately to be fitted in the finest…"
"My dear sir, I am not some newfangled carriage to be upholstered and bedecked!" Lizzy exclaimed, "I shall wear my best blue dress and my straw bonnet. And I dare you to stop me!"
"Lizzy, my Lizzy, you might wear your dressing gown and curling papers for all I care! So long as you get to the church! Oh, …" he called out… "fetch me my writing desk…I must write to Lady Catherine and gloat. You, my children, he said, taking their hands, "have made me so unbearably happy. I do declare this is the finest of all Thursdays!" He began to spin them round and round, and they laughed as he led them in circles. "Lizzy!" he cried, kissing the crown of her head, "you shall be the most beautiful and beguiling bride in the whole of the northern hemisphere. Darcy," he said, bestowing a kiss upon his son's cheek, "you will form the ideal model of a groom."
"Darcy is more beautiful than me, I am afraid," Lizzy whispered devilishly. "Do you recall the quote in 'Much Ado,' Uncle Willy-Ben? When Beatrice declares she will not have Don Pedro because he is too fine for her? I am somewhat of that disposition when it comes to Darcy – I fear he is 'too costly to wear every day.' I must have another husband for working-days." She and Mr. Darcy smiled conspiratorially whilst the object of their mirth rolled his eyes.
"Always nonsense, you magpie!" he snapped, though good-humouredly.
"Yes, well, you might bake me in a pie but still I'll sing!" Lizzy said.
"I should not marry someone who gets along so well with my father. Doubtless you will both conspire to vex me at all ends."
"Are you threatening to jilt me?" Lizzy inquired in mock horror. "If so, I shall hire the finest periwig in Hertfordshire and sue for breach of engagement!"
"I want to talk of plans!" Georgiana interrupted peremptorily. She was perpetually planning. "It must be the most beautiful of all weddings…" Georgiana was at a rather romantic point in her development and envisioned weddings as ethereal and vaguely Grecian. They were the golden culmination of that abstraction Love. She did not care much for the realities of the marriage state itself – but give her a wedding, and she was lost in raptures.
"No, it will be a plain meat-and-potatoes affair," Lizzy said. "Off we trot to the church and then it's home to a breakfast of bread and cheese."
"Oh, Lizzy!" Georgiana gasped, believing her in earnest.
"What were you expecting, George? Ambrosia and honeydew?"
"You will let me supervise everything," Georgiana said decisively.
"If I were to do that, George, I should find myself robed in clouds and crowned with stars with a veil as gossamer-light as cobwebs. You are far too fanciful when it comes to these affairs. Weddings happen every day! No planning whatsoever is necessary. Everything is settled. We will go down to the church and say whatever it is people say to one another when they marry and that will be that."
"Only you shall be made my sister by law," Georgiana said.
"Yes, well, I suppose that cannot be helped," Lizzy teased, "much as I wish it could. I have enough sisters on my hands as it is, without having to add you to the lot."
"Oh, Lizzy!" Georgiana cried, attempting to salvage some dignity from the situation, despite an increasing desire to throw romantic notions to the four winds and laugh heartily, "Are you ever serious?"
"There was a star danced, and under that she was born," Darcy quipped.
"I am only ever serious," Elizabeth added, pulling a long face. "There will be time enough to be grave when I am buried." She caught herself at once, whitening with pain over her carelessness.
"No need to turn so pale, Lizzy," Mr. Darcy teased gently, "you mustn't think I take any offense." He tucked her arm securely beneath his and patted it several times reassuringly. "Now tell me from the bottom of your heart that you love one another. I need some assurance."
Elizabeth hid her uneasiness, gazing steadily up into Darcy's eyes. "I would not have agreed to marry him if I did not love him beyond all comprehension," she said. "I do not think I should have to prove my love, sir. I should think it would be apparent."
Mr. Darcy took her in his arms again, embracing her tightly. "You are glowing, Elizabeth Bennet. I have never seen you so dazzling." Elizabeth met Darcy's eyes over his father's shoulder and quickly looked away. She could feel the blush rising in her cheeks. Darcy, for his own part, had no idea in what light to take Elizabeth's remarks. Her earnestness was undeniable. He felt his heart constricting – a painful lightness pervading. Was this pretense? Not on his part. Never on his part.
"We shall have to write to my father," Elizabeth said, releasing herself from Mr. Darcy's embrace and still avoiding Darcy's eyes. "And Lord knows what he will say…."
But Mr. Bennet raised no objections. He wrote back to say he had no qualms whatsoever about the marriage, as Lizzy had been making up her own mind since the tender age of three. He would arrive at Pemberley with a bevy of Bennets and please to put them up for an evening or two. He remained, etc.
"Indeed," Lizzy later remarked to Georgiana, "You would think people would be more obliging about throwing obstacles into our way. It is hardly proper that things should be this easy. Darcy must be made to have a mad wife locked away in an attic. I must be made to be secretly engaged to a Corsican pirate who discovers my betrayal at the ninth hour and challenges his rival to a dual... At least something…"
But no such impediments – either in the form of mad wives or Corsican pirates - presented themselves or, after a fortnight's passage, Darcy and Elizabeth were prepared to find themselves wed.
Guys! I'm sorry! I'm going to be sporadic until mid-December just because of finals/applications/thesis stuff. Promise that Georgiana's piano master will make an appearance soon. He does exist. And Jane and Bingley will be reunited next chapter. I love you all, of course. That's a given.
Happy Thanksgiving! I am fully prepared to eat an entire pan of sweet potato casserole.
Also, I just wanted to give a shout out to C. Lennox who wrote me the sweetest, most encouraging private message ever! I love, love, love comments. I am such a sucker for them, so please feel free! I take all of your suggestions to heart. WordsofWhimsy, I totally agree about Darcy and will include more from his POV next chapter. Firth's Darcy, you are so right about the Darcy comment. I tried to slightly gloss over it this chapter – hope it makes more sense now. Guest – November 16th would have been perfect. I hate that I missed it – I've been so out of touch with dates lately. I somehow thought today was November 9th, not the 19th. Somehow, I manage to convince myself that I am being productive when really I just sit in front of my computer screen staring into space. I promise to post as soon as conceivably possible – with Thanksgiving holidays starting Wednesday, I should have a bit of free time to spare. Next chapter = wedding.