A/N Everything belongs to Austen. I just tweaked it a little... or a lot. Hope you enjoy.
The Quiet Ones.
If you were to ask almost anybody in Hertfordshire who Elizabeth Bennet was you would likely not receive much information. Even the fact that the Bennet family was well known in Hertfordshire would be of little use. In fact by recognising her existence you would probably be in possession of more knowledge on the subject than they were. She was a reserved young woman who had somehow managed to escape the notice of the entire county as well as all but two of her family. Those two were her older sister Jane and her father, of whom she was the favourite daughter, Mr. Bennet.
You might ask how she managed this. Well the truth of the matter was she was a quiet young woman who had neither Jane's beauty or her youngest sisters need of attention, nor did she feel the need to distinguish herself in any particular way. She knew who and what she liked, was well aware of her accomplishments and felt absolutely no desire to prove them to the world. She felt that the mortification that her mother and younger sisters brought upon the family was reason enough reason to hide in the shadows.
And to add to all of this she was completely, utterly and painfully shy.
You would wonder how she came to be this way but be assured that it was of no one's particular fault. It was merely the natural progression of things. After all she took after her father from the first and he was a reserved man himself. Then of course her mothers disappointment (firstly because she wasn't as beautiful as Jane and secondly because she wasn't the heir that they so wanted) and dislike started off the list of reasons that she wished not to be seen. And from there on the years just added more to her embarrassment until she came to the present state of reserve she held now.
Elizabeth mounted her grey, Xerxes and headed out into the fields surrounding Longbourn. It was long before dawn and she was happily alone, Xerxes company was all that she desired. He had been a gift from her father when he was just a foal and they had been inseparable ever since.
Despite her shyness she was wilful and when they (mainly her mother) had told her she was to learn to ride side saddle she had revolted, more strongly than any of her family had ever seen or expected from her. For once she could not care less and had followed through accordingly. Mrs Bennet had been so surprised by her vehemence that she had capitulated almost immediately and the rest of the family followed suit. So now she rode her horse astride in a dress designed especially for the purpose.
She came to a stop, facing east on top of a ridge that overlooked most of the estate to watch the sunrise. Thinking that today she was at least content. She was outside with her best friend and no one today (probably because nobody was awake as yet but she would not dwell on that) had been angry with her or caused her to be embarrassed in any way. In short this morning was perfect in all its glory and the view from where she sat was anything but grey.
She sat in silent happiness until the sun was well into the sky and Xerxes became restless. A smile on her lips, eyes wide with delight and with complete trust in her horse she urged him forward at a run down the slope. She was a great reader and she was very fond of walking but there was little that she could compare to the freedom she found with Xerxes running across her fathers estate.
When she rounded a copse of trees, she just barely caught sight of a flash of black fir and a swirl of green before she was holding fiercely to Xerxes trying to keep her seat. Speaking comfortingly in his ear it wasn't long before he was standing calmly on all four once more. Only after she was certain he was not distressed did she look up to see the cause of the commotion.
Across from her was a handsome man who had clearly just regained control of his own mount. He was most obviously a gentleman and showed great horsemanship if his handling of the stallion he rode was anything to go by. His hair and features were dark and the flash of green she had seen happened to be his coat. She met his eye for the barest second and immediately ducked her head blushing, they were brown... his eyes were brown.
"I am sorry sir, I was not paying attention to where I was going." Her words were clear but she did not lift her head or look him in the eye again.
"Indeed ma'am, nor was I but all is well and no harm was done." His words were stiff causing her to look up at his expression. He look extraordinarily uncomfortable and had an air of reserve about him that made it clear he was uncomfortable in the presence of others.
"Glad to hear it." Her reply was just as quiet.
They sat in awkward silence for a moment not quite sure what to say to each other.
"Umm well, I ought to be heading..." She made a nervous gesture in the general direction of Longbourn.
"Oh of course. Don't let me keep you." He replied quickly seemingly relieved.
"Well.. good day sir." She bobbed her head, uncomfortably waiting for his acknowledgement so she could take her leave.
He tipped his hat to her and murmured a quiet "good day.' Seeming just as eager to part company.
With that she left. And she most certainly did not look back... twice.
Later he berated himself most harshly for not discovering her name. He had allowed his nerves to control his actions once again and this time he could not simply forgive himself.
She had been a vision. In her plain brown dress atop a horse that she very clearly had a longstanding friendship with. Her seat was stately so that one could almost think that she was the master (or mistress) of all her surroundings. She had been all sweetness and he could see that she, much like him was shy. Her figure was light and pleasing and her eyes, for the brief time that they had made contact with his own were like living swirls of emotion.
In short, he was enchanted.
Elizabeth returned to Longbourn just as the family was coming together for breakfast. It was still early morning and it appeared that her mother was in a tizzy already for she could be heard all the way from the entrance hall. Her latest tangent was set on their supposed new neighbours, one Mr. Bingley with five thousand a year (Mrs Bennet gushed repeatedly) who was arrived at Netherfield fresh from the north.
She was tired of the subject almost before it was began, such was the way Mrs Bennet carried on but she could not help but wonder if the handsome stranger she had encountered on her ride was their new neighbour, this Mr. Bingley. Of course with her thoughts thus occupied she missed the remainder of the breakfast conversation and continued to think on the matter for a large portion of the day. That was until she realised that there was no use in speculation (no matter how handsome) and that her thoughts had been engaged long enough, certainly longer than was proper. So she resolved to think no more of it or him and ensconced herself in Mr. Bennet's library much more suitably employed for the rest of the day.
Life returned to normal and her usual routine resumed. Her resolve to not think at all on the matter lasted until the next time it was spoken of in her presence at which time she realised it was a hopeless business and resolved instead not to think on it much. Which worked tolerably well for what was left of the week.
Then one afternoon as she was reading again in her father's library (his sanctuary where only she was freely allowed) the subject came up once again but this time from an unlikely source.
"Good heavens Lizzy I thought you would at least be intrigued enough to come to the assembly." Mr. Bennet stated out of the blue one evening, eyes sparkling with amusement.
She was so engrossed in her book that she did not even look up. "What assembly?"
"The assembly in Meryton tonight. I thought you would want to go."
"I've never enjoyed them in the past, papa and I avoid them whenever I can. Why would that suddenly change?" Her head was still in her book as she replied.
Mr. Bennet found great entertainment in his wife's folly and usually his Lizzy was co-conspirator to it, though she had been exceedingly distracted of late.
"Have you not been listening to your mother's rants? Our new neighbour is to attend." At this Elizabeth's head shot up, eyes wide she looked at the old grandfather clock and suddenly dashed out the door. Much to Mr. Bennet's amusement.
He was even more amused later when he made his way to the carriage to find Lizzy squashed in amongst her sisters ready for the assembly and even looked mildly excited. This behaviour was rather unusual in his second daughter and though he was glad to see her so animated he could not help but wonder at the cause.
Elizabeth sat in the corner of the crowded hall, watching all the couples laughing and dancing, wistfully hoping for just one dance. But then she was just as happy not to be noticed as she heard her mother exclaiming loudly to Mrs Lucas about something or other causing several of those surrounding them to stop and stare at them. Yes, far better to remain unseen she mused, things are as they always were and so they would remain.
Or so she thought, for it was at that moment that the new tenants of Netherfield made an appearance and in true Meryton fashion all went silent upon their arrival. For everyone knows that the best way to make newcomers welcome is to stare at them in stony silence. Thankfully Sir William Lucas thought to mend the situation and introduce anybody in the near vicinity.
She would have laughed at the outrageous seen had she not then caught the brown eyes of the handsome stranger who happened to be a member of the Netherfield party. When last they met she could not keep contact and now it seemed she could not look away. Even from across the room she felt a gentle but steady tug towards the man.
He looked away first, his attention taken by the introductions taking place in front of him. Introductions to her family she realised and quickly made her way over lest she miss them, thinking only of finally knowing his name.
..."This is Mr. Bennet and Mrs Bennet. Mr Bennet, Mrs Bennet meet Mr. Charles Bingley, his sister Miss Caroline Bingley and their guest Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberly in Derbyshire." Sir Lucas happily supplied names somehow refraining from saying 'capital' after every name.
"A pleasure, to be sure." Her mother simpered pathetically. "And these are my daughters Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia." She not so subtly pushed them forward.
They all replied with the usual pleasantries happy to make new acquaintances.
Elizabeth looked askance at her mother who had entirely neglected her introduction, this was a slight by any standard but unheard of amongst family.
"And our other daughter Elizabeth." Her father stated loudly while shooting an angry glance at his petulant wife.
She blushed and looked at the floor embarrassed by the entire situation almost wishing she had not come at all.
"A pleasure miss Elizabeth." Said a low quiet voice causing her to look up, straight into the eyes of Mr. Darcy.
She couldn't help by smile as she gave her curtsy. "The pleasure is mine Mr. Darcy."
Of course you can trust the Bennet household to intrude at the worst times, this time it was Lydia.
"Do you dance Mr. Darcy?" She asked flirtatiously with a great deal of unnecessary eyelash fluttering.
Darcy visibly closed in on himself, his face becoming an emotionless mask. "Not if I can help it." He replied stiffly.
For a moment Lydia stood frozen in complete shock, clearly she hadn't expected a refusal but then she seemed to rally herself and in her most haughty tone she said, "How dull you must be, perhaps you should stick with Lizzy." Her manner implied that she was giving a frightful insult, before she left abruptly without even an attempt at civility. Soon she was heard across the room giggly loudly about 'the pompous new neighbour'. It was rare for her not to get her way and when it did happen she played it up to the best of her ability.
It was shortly after that Elizabeth found herself in the corner of the room once more after being separated from Mr. Darcy by a press of eager mothers and daughters wanting an introduction to the distinguished guest of Mr. Bingley who was rumoured to have a great fortune. Not long after these introduction these same women could be heard exclaiming over 'the poor man who was so very reserved.'
Thankfully the next set was announced and everyone scattered to find their partners, including to Elizabeth's immense pleasure Jane and Mr. Bingley, thus dispelling such conversations for the most part. Of course each new pairing started up speculation amongst their parents until Mr. Darcy was quite forgotten.
Several sets (none of which she took part in) and a great deal of gossip later Elizabeth found herself to be, again in the company of Mr. Darcy.
"Are you not well, Miss Elizabeth?" He asked by way of greeting with an admittedly stiff bow despite his pleasure at her company.
"Fine thank you, why ever do you ask?" She curtsied back with a smile, puzzled by his concern but flattered by it all the same.
"I had wondered why you were not dancing and thoughts perhaps you were unwell. I am happy to be mistaken but my curiosity is not satisfied." He hoped receive another smile and was perplexed when he did not.
At his enquiring look she replied, "None have asked Mr. Darcy."
With a boldness he did not normally possess he held out his arm in invitation. "Shall we remedy that Miss Elizabeth, mat I have the next set?"
"Sir you do not feel obligated." She protested feebly, finding a sudden fascination with her feet as a blush spread across her cheeks. She did not want him to think she was begging for a partner.
"But I wish to." He replied seeming to find the same fascination with the ceiling as she did with the floor. It had not occurred to him until after he asked that she may not wish to dance but it was done now and he could not take it back. He was about to drop his arm back to his side when he felt warmth on his palm and looking down from the ceiling found her small hand in his.
"Thank you." She smiled at him shyly as he led her to the centre of the room where, very conveniently, the next set was about to begin.
As with all pairings of the evening there was speculation upon the couple but in this case even more pronounced. The quietest Bennet Daughter with the reserved, rich friend of the new neighbour was not a match anybody would have foreseen, except perhaps Jane. After watching the pair for some time the match making mamas observed a lack of conversation between the two and after further thought they came to the conclusion that he was merely showing her courtesy. For it was unlikely that she held any real attraction for the gentleman. Never mind that he hadn't stood up with any body else all night, as far as they were concerned his dancing with one woman made him fair game for any of the rest of their daughters for the remainder of the evening. None of them even thought that he would not ask them, it was assumed. In this assumption they were entirely wrong and were disappointed accordingly.
So happy was she to be standing up with someone that half the set went by before she thought to speak. Though she was content to remain silent she thought it to be expected that they at least attempt to converse.
"Ought we not talk to one another Mr. Darcy?"
"Indeed, of what would you like most to speak?"
"I do not know. Perhaps the size of the hall or the number of partners. Or perhaps the social expectation that one must talk to their partner whilst they dance." She replied with an archness rarely shown to anyone but her father.
"And thereby fulfilling the expectation." He chuckled, surprising those near enough to hear it with the warm sound. His amusement was contagious and she soon found herself laughing along with him.
"Or we could talk of something we enjoy. I here that the library at Pemberly is one of the best in the country." She said as she calmed down.
"I am rather proud of it. The Darcy library has been the work of many generations." They quickly warmed to the subject, finding it to be a mutual enjoyment of theirs and continued talking of favourite books and authors long past the end of their dance. So engrossed were they in conversation, ignoring all else in the room, they did not notice the passing of time until the last set of the evening was announced. At which point they stood up together once more, each showing a marked preference to the others company.
At their first dance of the evening there was curiosity, yes but after their marked conversation for most of the evening and dancing a second set together they were quite fixed in the minds of everybody present to be a 'sure thing.' Much to the disappointment of many mothers and daughters.
When they parted for the night they did so most unwillingly. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy were so taken with their partners that they promised to call the very next morning at Longbourn, to the excitement of all involved.
The entire Bennet household were surprised at how quickly an attachment was formed between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, easily the most reserved people of their acquaintance. That being said there were very few couples quite so well suited for each other, Jane and Charles Bingley among them.
Within a week of the Meryton assembly Darcy sought and was granted permission to court Elizabeth. Mr. Bennet though rather surprised at the rapidity of the mans attachment could not help but approve, for he had never seen his Lizzy smile quite so much as she did when in his company.
Mrs Bennet lamented that he did not choose Lydia but really there was nothing to be done about it. She was just happy that he had chosen one of her daughters at all and if the hope to be rid of her least favourite child consoled her somewhat it was neither here nor there.
And so the day after the assembly Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy themselves walking the gardens of Longbourn in the company of Jane and Mr. Bingley. Who were both talking quietly with one another some distance away and very deliberately giving them privacy.
At first they walked in awkward silence not sure what to say to each other but both exceedingly happy. Elizabeth had been surprised when he asked to call on her, she had hoped but had never really believed it possible. Often she had joked with Jane that she would die an old maid saying that she would simply dote on her children instead and teach them to play the piano very ill. They had both vowed that nothing but the deepest love would induce them to marry and for the first time she thought she may have her chance.
"Miss Bennet and Charles are by far the most lax chaperones I have had the pleasure to come across." Darcy said suddenly causing Elizabeth to look around to search for the couple only to find them to be nowhere in sight.
"Indeed it would seem that they are as much in need of one as us." She laughed glad that her sister should find the chance to speak to Mr. Bingley without their mother chittering away in the background.
"Perhaps we can work this to our advantage. I'm sure we can come to a mutual agreement." His mischievous reply was only half joking for he would like nothing more than the opportunity to spend time alone with her. Even though it was most certainly not proper.
"Mr. Darcy..." she replied sternly. Or at least tried to but she could not contain her laughter as she continued to tease him. "Who would have thought that one such as you would think of such a thing. It is positively scandalous."
He found that he rather liked her sarcastic wit and replied in like manner. "Do you not fear for your reputation then madam? For surely it is in grave danger."
"Should I call for father now then, for surely he would have some things to say to you about honour, dear sir." Sometime during their conversation they had stopped walking and now stood facing each other. There was a sparkle in her eye as she looked at him clearly showing her amusement.
Darcy unconsciously took a step closer so that they were toe to toe, her smile drawing him in as he replied, "but we wouldn't want him to interrupt."
Elizabeth opened her mouth to reply but was cut off by Darcy's lips and just like that, all reasonable thought was lost. This kiss was exactly how every woman dreamed their first kiss would be, gentle, sweet and by her opinion far, far to short. All the same she was out of breath when they parted and she could not bring herself to remove her hands from where they had rapped around the lapels of his jacket. Partly because she did not want to and partly because she was afraid that she wouldn't be able to stand up without the support.
Fitzwilliam Darcy was a man who prided himself on his self control and here he was at the first opportunity that he could possibly conjure, kissing Elizabeth Bennet. Of course it was not his fault that her lips looked so enticingly soft, or that the delight in her eyes just begged him to see what other delights he could make her feel, Who was he to resist such gloriously sweet temptation? He simply couldn't and when he did give in it was all that her eyes had promised it would be. And when they parted he remained as he was, with his hands on her hips and his head against hers.
The first week of courtship went by in a haze of pure bliss for Elizabeth. They went on long walks around Longbourn and she even dined at Netherfield along with Jane. But as it happened on this Saturday their gentlemen callers weren't coming until dinner and so they had the entire morning to themselves and their younger sisters were all in favour of a walk to Meryton and so to Meryton they went.
The walk to town was pleasant and uneventful and Lizzy enjoyed it immensely. She always liked to walk wherever she went and with Jane for company she was content.
But no sooner had they reached town then did Lydia spot one of her officer 'friends' and she immediately ran over to speak to him leaving the others no choice but to follow. As they approached they heard her being introduced to the man the officer was with, "...George Wickham has recently joined the regiment."
Introductions were made to the rest of the ladies and they all proceeded to post office as was their original design but now accompanied by the officers, Denny and Wickham. Her sister enthusiasm had them almost at a run and Elizabeth ended up walking (at a more sedate pace) next to their new acquaintance, who tried to pull her into conversation. But there was something about the man, the set of his jaw, the restlessness in his eyes, that caused her to feel uneasy as a result all he received was one word answers. This did not seem to deter him and he continued with all the usual pleasantries due to a person one had just met. When those were sufficiently dispensed with, he began to regale her with stories of the London season, none of which inclined her to answer him.
Soon it was decided that they would visit their Aunt Phillips while in town and the officers were invited to join, for it was sure delight their aunt to make new friends. Their Aunt of course was delighted and made sure of inviting more officers off the street to form an impromptu party. And a merry one it was indeed, Elizabeth loved her Aunt dearly despite her brashness at times and found great delight in conversing with her for a portion of the afternoon.
Her sisters also enjoyed themselves, though perhaps a little to much as they were flirting most outrageously with every officer in attendance. During this time there was a stage where Elizabeth was sitting alone out of the way, glad to be able to sit and watch instead of be forced to interact. This did not last long however as Mr. Wickham took it upon himself to break her solitude convinced that no woman desired to be alone at such events and desiring to ingratiate himself to her.
Having heard from one of her sisters that she was Mr. Darcy's favourite he sought once again to revenge himself upon Darcy and at the earliest opportunity that their brief (and slightly unwilling on Elizabeth's part) conversation presented he brought up his dislike of the man and his fabricated reasons behind it. All in the hopes of breading dislike in her and therefore parting Darcy from the object of his affection.
Elizabeth was unsure what to think, to hear such accusations about her favourite was most alarming and she could not quite believe it for there was something in Wickham's mode of address that bespoke of half truths and add to that it was most improper for him to air such private matters on so short an acquaintance. With these realisations she could not believe him completely but resolved to discuss the matter with Darcy.
Wickham observed her in disbelief and upped his efforts even mentioning the fabled engagement between Darcy and Miss Anne de Bourgh. "Think on it Miss Bennet, he is not all he appears." He stated as he moved away happy with his afternoons work.
That evening at dinner with Darcy and Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth could not get what Wickham had said that afternoon out of her mind, causing her much distress and as soon as the opportunity presented (which happened to be in the drawing room while everyone else played cards) she desperately inquired if the accusations were true.
"Mr. Darcy while in town my sisters and I made a new acquaintance with a member of the local militia." She watched him carefully but did not detect anything unusual in his expression. That is until she mentioned his name. His reaction was immediate and terrifying, his hands balled into fists and his eyes became so dark they were almost black. However he made no reply.
Elizabeth was now hesitant to continue but she was so distressed over what he had told her that she simply had to know the truth. "He told me that you knew each other and that you had treated him unfairly... and that you were engaged to a Miss de Bourgh." She paused wondering at his continued silence.
"Please William tell me it is not true." She begged unable to contain herself any longer.
At this Darcy seemed to start and turning to Elizabeth he took hold of her hand. "Wickham has long been spouting the same falsehoods to all who will give him ear." He then told her the truth story sparing no detail.
Elizabeth was alarmed and relieved in the same breathe, she was shocked that anybody could be so evil and relieved that her love was not at fault.
"I am only sorry that you had to hear such a tale." He concluded giving her hand a gentle and reassuring squeeze.
"And I am sorry to have doubted you even for a moment."
The issue having been resolved was not spoken of again between the couple both content with the truth of their conversation.
That evening Bingley also announced a ball to be held at Netherfield the Saturday coming and asked for Jane's first set. Likewise Darcy asked for Elizabeth's first as well as the supper set.
Their courtship was again interrupted by the arrival of the Bennet's cousin a Mr Collins who upon entering the house set his sights on the reserved Miss Elizabeth who by his estimation would make an excellent and obedient wife. Mr. Collins was a pompous and ridiculous fellow who in insulted their home and praised it in the one breathe while managing to add in a copious amount of compliments to his 'esteemed patroness' Lady Catherine de Bourgh. As a result of his desire for a wife most of these comments were delivered to an incredulous Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was unused to such unwanted attentions (as Mr. Darcy's addresses were very different) and made every effort to avoid his company. As he was staying with them this turned out to be a very difficult task as it also happened to rain much of the week. Making it impossible to use her usual method of escape, instead she took to hiding in the stables or in her father's library.
In this manner the remainder of the week passed until the day of the Netherfield ball dawned bright and sunny much to the delight of the two households and the day was spent in a whirlwind of preparations, to Elizabeth's consternation who would much rather spend the first sunny day of the week outdoors. But this was not to be, so she settled for making sure that she appeared to her best advantage for Darcy at the ball.
When the time finally came they all bundled off in the carriage and made their way to Netherfield where they were received immediately by their excited host and his dear friend who handed Elizabeth down from the carriage with gentle hands and an affectionate smile. At which Mr. Collins grabbed an unprepared Elizabeth's hand and pulled her towards the house with a possessive air before an introduction was even made. Leaving a stunned family and even more shocked Darcy.
"Mr. Collins!... Mr. Collins unhand me." She tugged on her arm, attempting to free herself from his grip.
Mr. Collins seemed to finally come to himself and finally released her just as Darcy made his way over to offer his aid.
"I am most sorry, dear cousin Elizabeth. I'm afraid I've run away with my feelings. I simply could not allow the woman I intend for my wife to be assaulted in such a manner knowing that you are a delicate woman and would not defend yourself." He said in what he obviously thought was an affectionate manner. Clearly he thought his actions were in her service and that she would appreciate his gallantry.
"Mr. Collins you misunderstand..." but she was interrupted again by the silly man.
"In fact to save you from such attentions I will secure your first dance and will remain close to you through out the evening."
"YOU WILL DO NO SUCH THING!" Darcy had enough of the pompous man who was obviously hurting his Elizabeth. He stood to his full height and stared the little man down. "Elizabeth will speak for herself. If you wish to dance with her you must ask and if she does not desire your company, you will leave her be."
"Who are you sir to talk to me in such a way about my intended?" Mr. Collins replied unknowingly digging himself a whole.
"I am her betrothed." He stated calmly without a hint of unease.
Elizabeth did not know what to think. Mr. Collins presumptions made her quite angry as did the fact that he did not consult her once. But then Mr. Darcy had also been presumptuous when he claimed them to be her betrothed. This statement however, unlike Mr Collins one, gave her great joy and she could not but hope that he was in earnest.
Her cousin blinked and then blinked again. Shock covered his features and then upon seeing the crowd that had gathered, embarrassment quickly followed before finally giving way to his usual haughty manner and upon reaching some sort of conclusion in his mind, he strode off inside.
A minute passed before Darcy calmed enough to face Elizabeth sending her a silent apology with his eyes, he offered his arm to escort her inside. The rest of the Bennet family overcame their shock and followed soon after.
Inside the ballroom was decked out to perfection and due to the delay outside the first set was already begun, making it impossible to join. Soon after Elizabeth was taken away to a private corner by her family (specifically Mr. Bennet and Jane) to ensure her welfare. It took some time to reassure them and even longer still to inform them of what had gone on to cause such a seen.
Darcy too, was taken away by their hostess in attempt to impress him and was forced by propriety as their guest to dance a set with Caroline after which he immediately took his leave and searched for Elizabeth worriedly hoping that she would not be accosted by Mr. Collins again.
He found her quite a while later in a drawing room off the side of the party clearly hiding from her unwanted admirer. The supper set was then announced and after inquiring if she was well enough to dance he led Elizabeth back to the ballroom and they joined the set.
"I apologise for my words before I had not wished to allow him such liberties as he was claiming." They began to weave in and out of the other dancers as they spoke.
"Not at all, I thank you for your help." They did not take their eye off the other for a second and the rest of the room became irrelevant as it always did when they were in company. Even the events earlier could not deter them from each other.
She did not mention a word about his declaration and it worried him to think that she did not desire it as he did. True it had been sprung upon her but he thought that it would at least warrant a mention.
After several minutes of contemplation he could contain it no longer and suddenly Darcy burst out, "Would you object if those were my intentions?"
She could not pretend to be unaware of what he spoke nor did she wish to be for even after so short a courtship she could deny him nothing and the very thought made her deliriously happy.
"I would not." She responded as calmly as she could manage.
He thought his heart would burst with the hope that she had given him and as the dance brought them together once more, instead of separating Darcy took hold of her hand and drew her near and nearer still, until their bodies were almost touching.
"Would you do me the honour of accepting my hand, dearest loveliest Elizabeth?"
He looked into her 'fine' eyes and found his answer there before it left her lips.
"Yes, William." Her answer was simple but her smile showed her undisguised happiness.
Darcy having long forgotten the room full of people was overcome with joy, picked her up by the waist and swung her around laughing happily all the while. She had agreed, and she had made him the happiest of men. He placed her once again on the floor grinning madly at his love and happy to hear her laughter join his.
He had asked her! She was so happy she could hardly breathe, of course that might have something to do with being spun around by her exuberant fiancé. She smiled up at him, the joy in his captivating brown eyes was for her and only her. She had no doubt that she was the most blessed woman in all England.
A cough sounded near by drawing the attention of the two lovers. They looked around only to find that they had drawn the curious stares of everyone in the room, even the band had stopped to watch. The man who had coughed was none other than Mr. Bennet who far from being angry merely looked amused.
"May I ask what has brought on this energetic display?" The humour in his voice was unmistakable and relaxed the couple somewhat despite the situation.
Darcy for once in his life wished to share his news with any soul who would listen that Elizabeth was his.
"Sir I asked her to marry me." He tried show respect, truly he did but he could not contain his joy nor could he bring himself to release her hand despite the impropriety.
"Clearly she has accepted you then." Mr. Bennet chuckled and continued. "You have my congratulations... and my blessing."
Soon they were bombarded by a sea of well wishers, friends and family who were all (with a few exceptions) very happy for them.
Wickham was imprisoned mere weeks later after a few of his debtors caught wind of his whereabouts from an anonymous source. The duration was unknown and his cell mates were most unforgiving.
Mr. Collins returned to Kent without a wife and was heard some years later to have married a woman of Catherine de Bourgh's recommendation who was apparently just as demanding and overbearing as the lady herself.
Lydia did indeed go to Brighton for the officers and was hastily married to Mr. Denny after some serious threats from Mr. Bennet.
Mrs Bennet for all her fluttering about the hedgerows need not have worried for she later and very unexpectedly gave birth to a son and the heir of Longbourn.
Jane became Mrs Bingley shortly after and had a brood of her own children. She and Bingley left Netherfield after their lease ended and bought property in Derbyshire to be closer to the Darcy family.
Elizabeth and Darcy were married and lived at Pemberly with Georgiana (until she married) and their own children, six in total, five of which were boys. They very seldom went to town and were quite happy to keep their distance from society.
A quiet life suited them fine.