Chapter XXVIII.

About eight days later, Fitzwilliam Darcy stood before one of the ornamental mirrors which adorned the corridor leading to Pemberley's Chapel, adjusting his cravat. The fingering was a nervous movement, brought on entirely by his constant desire to make sure that this day was actually occurring, and was not a part of the endless dreams which he had been having ever since he first laid eyes on the woman he was now to spend the rest of his life with.

Now he turned from the mirror to the window opposite, commanding his mind to recall the events of the previous days. After Elizabeth had given her consent to the wedding, he and his household had been much occupied in the preparations that such an event required.

He had not left Pemberley until the next morning, reluctant to part from his betrothed, and sensible of the pointlessness in departing from his home only hours before the night came upon the county. However, even that morning departure had brought with it considerable loathing, and only the reminder of what would result from it, made it worth enduring.

He had taken a great deal on good faith by travelling down to Longbourn via London, where he procured the license, and informed the Matlocks. Still did he hold his breath upon arriving in Hertfordshire, and sequestering himself in his future father in law's study, paced the floor repeatedly until Mr Bennet had entered.

Being an intelligent man, Mr Bennet determined immediately what had brought the taciturn suitor of his favourite down from Derbyshire and away from her side, and did not hesitate in delivering his consent to the ceremony being conducted at Pemberley. Seeing also his future son in law's evident desire to be on their way, he immediately informed his dear lady wife, and remaining children of the happy event. Remarkably, the entire party was able to depart from Longbourn within the hour.

The return journey was, to the great relief of all concerned, mercifully short. No mishaps of overturned carriages, or any other sudden unforeseen events of that kind occurred, enabling Darcy and the Bennets to arrive at Pemberley well before they had been expected by both daughters awaiting them.

The Bingleys had by now also arrived for the ceremony from Pearlcoombe, a circumstance which allowed the future bride and groom the opportunity to greet each other in private after their brief separation. The Matlocks arrived a day later, followed by the Collinses, who had left Kent in somewhat of a rush, as their patroness had reacted as would be expected to the blessed event.

All that had occurred over the course of eight days, and now Darcy was counting down the minutes to what would surely be the happiest moment of his life. In another part of the house, his bride was engaged with her sisters, Georgiana, Mrs Richard Fitzwilliam and Mrs Collins.

Thus it left Darcy with nothing to do but pace or stand nervously in wait, until his groomsmen came to inform him that all was ready for the ceremony to begin. He could not understand why he was so nervous. He had been waiting and imagining this moment from the day she had accepted his proposal. The only difference now was, that it was actually happening.

Perhaps his anxiousness was due to the nightmare he had in the early hours of this day. About the ceremony progressing perfectly until the Earl had walked into the chapel to claim back his wife. His sense of reality had been so disturbed by that dream that he had resorted to writing a short note to his intended the minute he woke up, requesting an instant reply.

Fortunately, Elizabeth had seen nothing but romance in the gesture, and he now had an example of her fine penmanship locked away in the bureau in his bedchamber. His memory of this comfort would have to console him for now, as there was no time to go and fetch it from its drawer before the ceremony started.

A click sounded, unnaturally loud in the silent corridor, and Darcy turned from the window to encounter the face of his cousin. Colonel Fitzwilliam smiled knowingly at the mask of control the master of Pemberley instantly produced for display. Having been in the same position as his friend only a few months ago, he knew exactly what Darcy was experiencing right now. "The moment has come, Darcy. It is time for you to greet your blushing bride."

His cousin allowed his mask to drop for a brief moment, as a smile graced his features. Then he stepped away from the window, and joined Fitzwilliam by the door. With a careful stride, Darcy followed the Colonel to the door which led to the Chapel, then down the short flight of stairs to the altar.

He acknowledged the priest of Lambton parish with a nod, then turned his head to the entrance as the music began. His eyes captured those which, since the evening at Lucas Lodge, had always fascinated him, holding them within his own until their owner had come to join him before the altar. Mr Bennet released his daughter to him, Darcy met her eyes one final time, then turned to face the reverend.

The hour was at last upon them.

Elizabeth lifted her face to meet his own, inwardly smiling as his lips entwined her own in mutual celebration of their union. Unlike her first time at the altar, the ceremony had seemed to last forever, making her notion of time entirely at odds when the end came. Since their lips had joined, the world had faded away for her, and she could hear nothing, feel nothing but the form of her husband next to her.

His hands drifted from their original position about her face to her hair, then reluctantly withdrew, as the priest politely coughed to remind them where they were. With a long look to each other, Darcy took her hand and led her out into the summer sunshine which was currently enhancing Pemberley's natural beauty.

Around them, guests threw flower petals, but Elizabeth only had eyes for her Fitzwilliam. His mask had been entirely done away with, in favour of the smile upon his face. He looked very pleased with himself, and she could not deny feeling the same way.

This time but a year ago, she had been despairing of ever finding happiness after the passing of the Earl. Little had she known that she was but a few months away from achieving that emotion, for the rest of her life. She let her free hand seek out his, blushing when she discovered that his own had been bent on the same notion.

The joining of their hands led to another look being exchanged between them, and once more did Elizabeth feel the power of their elation increasing. Her mind recalled the doubts she had once entertained, regarding their existence now with disbelief.

The man beside her now was a complete contrast to the one that had gone before him. She smiled as her thoughts recalled the latest example of his goodness; sending the dressmakers from town to the estate, who had made the wedding gown she was now attired in. That gesture had been followed by another: the arrival of a mysterious parcel to her room one morning, which turned out to be the jewels his mother had worn upon her wedding day; a beautiful sapphire necklace, and separate sapphires to adorn her hair.

Then had followed the arrival of himself, along with her family. Lastly, had been his note of this morning, sent to reassure his anxiousness. It had also done the same for herself. She had been pleased to discover that her night was not the only night to be plagued by doubts and fears. She had also dreamt of the Earl coming back to life and putting a end to all her hopes. The scene had been so real that she had awakened calling for Darcy, only to receive her sister Jane instead.

Mrs Bingley had still been present when the note had arrived and had the relief of seeing her sister's face light up as soon as she had read it. The note had been everything she had could have hoped for, calming her mind immediately with its loving terms. Like the letters he penned during their brief separation when he had been required at his estate, it had spoken to her heart, and answered with his own.

They entered the house, where they had to part briefly, in order for them to comb the petals from their clothes, for her to adjust the veil so it would not get in the way for the dancing that was to come. Elizabeth made her way to her new chambers, the rooms of the mistress of the house, where she took the opportunity to take out the note again, and peruse its contents once more.

My dearest, loveliest Elizabeth,

I write this in the hope that I have not dreamt the past year, and that you will join me in a few hours in Pemberley's chapel, and become my wife.

Last night my mind dreamt our ceremony already here, but overturned, as the late Earl came back from the dead to destroy you and our happiness.

I awoke calling your name, only to confront the emptiness of my chambers. Anxiously, I sat up and with my eyes sought, and found, the evidence of my wedding suit, waiting for me to don.

My mind however, would not be satisfied by such material considerations, causing me to rise and write you this note.

After such a nightmare, I could not risk the fates by visiting you in person, so the form of written words will have to suffice for the both of us.

Upon this day, I love more than words can say, it seems, a love which has grown with each passing minute, with every passing hour.

Your fine eyes begin my every dream. I long to caress your wondrous hair, your smooth skin. To cradle you in my arms forever.

I am counting hours down, my love. My heart, along with every breath in my body, hopes that you are doing the same.

Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Elizabeth found herself blushing again as she finished reading the note, just as Sarah announced that she was ready to return to the celebrations once more. She entered the corridor to find the author of the recently read note waiting for her. She smiled as he did, and took the hand that had reached out for hers.

"Have I told you how beautiful you look, Elizabeth?" he asked in a soft, husky tone, which somehow conveyed all the love he felt for her. Their intimacy was emphasised and lingered upon, and he seemed very glad to utter it, just as she was glad to hear it.

"For you look very, very, beautiful. So much so, that I could not wait for you to come down. I had to come to you." He stepped closer to her, leading her into his arms. "Right now, I wish all the guests were gone, and we could return to your room."

Elizabeth blushed, but for once, felt no fear accompanying that redness to her cheeks. He would be the husband she had always wished for, of that she could be certain.

The End.