Part XXXVI.

"A report of the most alarming nature reached me two days ago. Though I know it to be a scandalous falsehood, though I would injure her memory so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place, so that I might make my sentiments known to you. And to have the report universally contradicted."

Darcy looked at his Aunt sadly. "I am sorry, Lady Catherine, but to have the report universally contradicted is impossible. I am engaged to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and we will marry as soon as every thing required can be sorted."

"This is not to be borne! Nephew, I insist on being satisfied! Have you lost all sense of reason?"

"No, in fact, Aunt, I do not believe I have never been more sensible in my life." Darcy stood up from his chair and leant against the desk.

To the casual observer, this may have looked like a relaxed posture, but to those that knew Fitzwilliam Darcy well, it was one of barely restrained anger. "You can have no reason to object to what is my own life. You have had no claim on it whatsoever."

"Have I not? Was it myself who planned, while you were in your cradles, to marry you to my daughter?"

"Yes, but the arrangement was never a formal one, only a wish of yourself. The only reason I entered into the match in the first place was because I had Anne's agreement that it was solely for the sake of Georgiana and Anne herself. Why, now that I am unattached once more, should I hold myself back from marrying again?"

"Because honour, decorum, prudence,- nay interest, forbid it!" Lady Catherine replied, her voice rising once again beyond the levels of normal. She paced for a while in front of him and the desk that he leant upon, in proud, forceful strides.

Suddenly she stopped and turned to him again. "I see your design! And now, perhaps, I am not quite so displeased. The continuation of your family's line is of course a priority, I quite understand. But surely you could have made a better choice, from among those of your own circle."

"Lady Catherine, to suggest that my marriage to Elizabeth is due to no other desire than to procure an heir, is an insult to both her and myself. I have asked her to be my wife out of no other interest than everlasting love, and she has replied to me with the same."

"You may believe that nephew, if you choose, but her arts and allurements have only lead you to believe this. She has drawn you in."

"Quite the contrary, Aunt. It is a result of mutual attraction on both sides."

"Oh this is not to be endured! The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connection, or fortune. If you were still possessed by sense, you would not wish to lower yourself out of the sphere in which you have been brought up."

"In marrying Elizabeth, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. I gentleman, she is a gentleman's daughter: so far we are equal."

"But who is her mother? Who are her Uncles and Aunts? Do not imagine me ignorant of their condition."

"Elizabeth's connections do not matter to me," Darcy replied, by now almost beyond his limit, "thus they can mean nothing to you."

"Unfeeling, selfish, nephew! You refuse to oblige me? You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour and gratitude. You are determined to ruin yourself."

"The only thing I am determined in, Aunt, is to act in a manner which will constitute my own happiness without any reference to you or to anyone else so wholly connected to me."

"And this is your final resolve? Very well, I shall know how to act. You are aware that if you follow this course of action I shall endeavour to do everything in my power to ensure that you do not inherit Rosings upon my death?"

"I do not care whether or not I get Rosings!" Darcy snapped, finally loosing his control.

"You do not care it seems about a great deal that concerned my daughter!"

"On the contrary, Aunt Catherine, there is one matter that I care particularly about. Anne informed me that she wished any mourning I did for her not to interfere with any future happiness my life may entitle me to. I am fully respecting her wishes in choosing to marry Elizabeth Bennet."

"When did she inform you of this?"

"Anne wrote letters a month before her death, to all her family members, entrusting me to give them out upon her death. One such was addressed to me, detailing the wish that I have just pointed out to you."

He walked to his bureau and opened the drawer that contained them, lifting out the one Anne had addressed to her mother, before returning to his previous position. "And here is yours."

Lady Catherine took the letter, and then strode out of the room. Darcy waited until the door was closed, then drew himself up to his full height, and breathed deeply until he had expelled the rest of his temper.

Then he turned and apologised to his companion, who had all the while, remained unnoticed by Lady Catherine. "I apologise Sir, that you had to witness such an outburst. Let me assure you now that my other relatives do not regard the match in the same way as Lady Catherine de Bourgh."

"I have no need for that assurance," Mr Bennet replied, "knowing your uncle as well as I do. The only assurance I needed in fact, has already been given to me."

"And that was?"

"That you would be willing to defend my Lizzy against the hounds of hell if need be." Mr Bennet smiled. "I think you shall do quite well, Mr Darcy. Now, shall we return to the settlement arrangements?"

"An excellent idea," Darcy replied, "if first, you will permit me to fetch Elizabeth. I would like her to be consulted on this."

"Just as you should, just as you should," Mr Bennet commented. "By all means, though do not tarry longer than necessary."

Darcy bowed and walked to the door. When he had gone, Mr Bennet grumbled loudly for a while on the annoyance of relatives, and then settled back into the quiet alcove, as he waited for his daughter to return.

Several days had passed since the announcement to the general populous at large that Mr Darcy was to wed Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Many had rejoiced at the match, and almost as many despaired, as it meant another bachelor gone, and another reason for Mrs Bennet to gloat.

Her husband was just thankful that none of them bar himself and his daughter knew the true wealth of his prospective son in law, which came close to doubling what had been speculated as per annum.

With both weddings now planned to take place later in the year, the majority of days were spent by the Bennet and Lucas families at Netherfield, as the various arrangements required were sorted out to everyone's satisfaction.

Needless to say one person had not been satisfied. Lady Catherine, even after reading her daughter's letter, was of the opinion that everyone had lost their sanity along with their reason, and retired to Rosings immediately, calling her solicitors, with whom she instantly set about restoring the old entailment attainder, ensuring that Rosings Park would pass to Sir Lewis' younger brother after her death.

That event came quickly. Barely a month after the marriage of Mr Darcy to Miss Elizabeth Bennet had passed when the papers published the sad news that Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park had suffered a stroke, and had died, leaving the estate to her late husband's younger brother.

Despite their less than harmonious relations, the Darcys along with the Matlocks visited the estate soon after the new owner had settled, and had the fortune to see that Robert de Bourgh was nothing at all like his late brother and sister in law.

A single but widowed gentleman, with a secure self made fortune, he also had one daughter, who was to inherit Rosings and all his investments.

It was here that Lady Catherine had the misfortune to have her wish of no one connected to her family inheriting Rosings swept under the carpet, as Richard Fitzwilliam fell in love with Anastarsia de Bourgh, and married her within a year of their acquaintance.

As for his older brother, Alexis and Charlotte married a day before their cousins, and lived the rest of their lives in the greatest felicity and comfort.

They spent most of their time in between Matlock, Pemberley and Pearlcoombe; where they would keep company of the Bingleys and the Darcys, as they enjoyed the happiness their meeting had bestowed upon them. As their children grew, it soon came to pass that there were many a union between all.

And Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, who presently are stealing a few moments of solitude in the hallway of Netherfield, before joining Mr Bennet and sorting out the settlements, have yet no idea of the happiness that awaits them after their marriage. All they have is the knowledge that their lives will, after such a long wait, surely be bliss.

We leave them now, in each others arms, their lips entwined in an amorous embrace, as all thoughts of the future fade away from their minds, leaving only the moment to relish upon.

The End.