A/N: With many kind expressions of gratitude, I conclude this little romance.
2 July 1813
"We brought you a present, to make up for not going to Town," Alice told her. "It's a novel!"
Isabella's eyes widened. "A novel? Does Father know?"
"Shhh! It's a secret. He doesn't know a thing!"
Isabella immediately tucked the three volume set under her arm and ran up the front stairs to her room, even before she looked at the title. But then, she sat down on her bed and studied the books with all the voracious enthusiasm of a romantic. "Pride and Prejudice. By A Lady. Hmmm..." Cutting open to the first page, she began to read:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
. . .
20 May 1818
Due to one thing and another, the clock in the front hall was chiming midnight when Isabella had managed to rouse the housekeeper to answer the door. She was mussed, a bit travel-weary, but smiling all over her face. "Mrs. Crowley? This is Mr. Edward Cullen, a neighbor of ours in Lincolnshire. He lives not five miles from the edge of our farm. Please see to it that he is shown to the front guest chamber. Have you heard from my father?"
"No, miss. Is everything all right?"
"Everything is wonderful."
"Miss Swan and I are to be married as soon as it can be arranged," Edward said, his smile evident through a two-day growth of beard. "If Mr. Swan arrives, please let him know that, first thing."
"Miss Isabella?" Mrs. Crowley, whispered. "Are you both quite right? Neither of you foxed or nothing?"
Isabella laughed, a full, rich sound that cheered Edward's heart considerably, exhausted as he was. "Everything is fine, as I said. A single woman in possession of a good fortune," she went on, sounding a bit tipsy in her weariness, Edward recognized, "might still want a husband, you know."
Under the watchful eye of the housekeeper, Isabella undressed and went to bed. When she awakened, her new fiancé and her father were already hard at work in the estate's offices. Mallory – who had come with Mr. Swan– was laughing and crying and seeing to her wedding clothes, and Mrs. Crowley informed her that the master had sent for the vicar. They were to be married by a special license. That very afternoon!
Though all of this had been arranged while she herself had been perfectly unconscious, Isabella stared out the front window, much as she had a little more than a month prior, with a smile on her face. She had had her Season. Had been to Town. Had even been swamped with suitors! Soon to be married to a man better than either of her sisters had found, she believed.
Much later that day, she was staring out a different window at a different sweep of greenery, five miles from Swan Manor, when she heard her name. "Isabella?"
"Over here." Edward joined her, holding her against his chest as they both looked out the window. "I was just thinking..."
"We never would have met if it hadn't been for my great uncle's fortune."
She felt him chuckle into her hair. "Marc would be pleased in the value you got with his money."
"Well," he said, turning her slowly around so that she faced him, "There are a few items on the manifest I'd like to inspect..."
She was still blushing when they reached their chamber and shut the door.