What happens after that fateful walk when Elizabeth Bennet agrees to marry Mr. Darcy?
In an irregular courtship such as theirs, the rare private conversation has brought about various understandings in the past. The first was a blatant refusal on the part of Miss Bennet to enter into an engagement with the gentleman; reproofs and insults were exchanged and they parted with no intention of reconciliation. However fate has a sense of humor and providence stepped in to bring the two together in order to mend hurts and convey hope to both parties. Another private moment was ruined when disastrous news was delivered.
After a time and the betrothal between her dear sister and his close friend, a walk allowed some intimacy for conversation to bring about the happiness of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. By unspoken consent, the news of their unofficial betrothal was kept between themselves for the evening. Both secretly preferred to relish the novelty of having secured the other and bask in the joy of mutual affection.
The gentlemen stayed at Longbourn for dinner. Mr. Darcy was again seated across from Elizabeth; this time between her sisters Mary and Kitty. While the acknowledged lovers were seated together next to Elizabeth in order to converse freely and share smiles, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were not so fortunate. Each managed to eat little and sat in quiet reflection.
Elizabeth was confused at the mixture of feelings she experienced. She dearly feared how her family members would react to the announcement. Only Jane could overlook any past judgments and gossip regarding Mr. Darcy since his appearance at the Meryton assembly. Mrs. Bennet had snubbed him soundly and Mr. Bennet voiced his opinion when the last letter from Mr. Collins was delivered—if only she had the courage to speak to her father about his goodness then! Elizabeth wished for nothing more than to speak more with her Mr. Darcy. There was still so much to be said and questions to be answered. When she glanced his way, managing to catch his eye, the depth of emotion displayed therein stole her breath and softened her countenance until she was forced to look at her plate in embarrassment.
During more intimate family dinners Mr. Bennet would have recognized the behavior displayed by his favorite daughter immediately. But with the promise of a new son, his attention was arrested by the interaction between Mr. Bingley and Jane when he wasn't asking the former questions or diligently clearing his plate.
The youngest Bennet sister, Kitty, was sitting by Mr. Darcy and was determined not to talk to him. It seems that although easily excitable, Kitty was also easily intimidated by that gentleman's demeanor and status. She talked a little to Mrs. Bennet about shopping and lace for the anticipated nuptial and only asked Elizabeth's opinion twice since the responses given did not encourage the discussion.
Mr. Darcy smiled to himself listening to the discourse when Elizabeth's name was said. He understood that she was quietly pleased with their understanding and not easily distracted from her thoughts by frivolous subjects. He spent the dinner hour marveling at his good fortune, thinking on how quickly he would like to have their wedding and pondered on what Elizabeth's opinion would be regarding a wedding trip; for as much as he would like to whisk her away to Pemberley, he would relish nothing more than weeks alone with her without distracting responsibilities or society in general.
Once dinner was concluded, the ladies removed to the drawing room to anticipate the men. There was little to gossip about, however, so they each picked up a project. Mary sat at the pianoforte, Elizabeth picked up her embroidery and Kitty sat at the table with Mrs. Bennet to inventory the pile of ribbons located there. Meanwhile, Mr. Bennet along with Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy enjoyed a glass of port; each in anticipation to join the ladies for their own reasons—although in truth Mr. Bennet was hoping to escape to his library for an hour before retiring. There was little conversation, but Mr. Bennet made an effort to ask Bingley questions regarding his plans for Netherfield and other business affairs. Mr. Darcy was ignored for the most part since that gentleman seemed content to listen.
"I have been fortunate in Darcy's friendship since he has taught me much about the business of running an estate. Isn't that right Darce?" Bingley regaled, barely waiting to see Mr. Darcy raise his eyebrows and nod. "In fact, I am exceedingly pleased that Netherfield is only a portion of the size of Pemberley! Tenants seem to need a great deal of attention and I only have a handful of them. I cannot imagine the responsibility on Darcy's hands nor making some of those decisions to decide their fate. Why, his steward is constantly requiring some attention, is he not?"
At this, Darcy did reply, "It is not as bad as all that, Bingley. One does become accustomed to running an estate and learn to take pride in the operation. There is no need to rely on me. I am certain that you shall be a capable landlord and, of course, you shall have Miss Bennet to help you with the household matters soon."
Mr. Bennet was rather surprised by this little speech—being the most words he had ever heard Darcy speak together. He knew Mr. Darcy to be a prideful sort of man. His words spoke more of encouragement to his friend rather than conceit in the great compliment afforded him. He rested his eyes on Mr. Darcy and raised an eyebrow wondering if his judgment of the fellow had been fair, "Indeed." was the only reply before he pushed back his chair. "I think we have kept the lady's waiting long enough. We wouldn't want my daughter to go mad with anticipation."
After some musical entertainment and tea service, Mr. Bingley's carriage was called for.
Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy said their goodbyes with deep bows over their respective lady's hands after complimenting Mrs. Bennet for the lovely evening. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy shared a private smile before the gentlemen took their leave of the Bennet family.
Elizabeth watched them leave, already looking forward to seeing them again in the morning. She was ready to burst from keeping her thoughts to herself and was glad for the opportunity to speak her heart to Jane. Her happiness tripled with the sharing of it, causing sleep to elude her. But she soon did rest with a smile upon her lips.
Mr. Darcy was of the same mind to think on the morn with anticipation. Mr. Bingley was not of the same temperament as Darcy and therefore not able to keep silent in his joyful state once they ascended into the carriage. "I say, Darcy, what a capital day we had! Such a short time has passed and yet I cannot imagine living my life without my angel. I hope we will be able to wed soon. This very afternoon I was speaking to my lovely Jane about… speaking of this afternoon, where did you and Miss Elizabeth go off to?"
Darcy inhaled and braced himself for a confession. "Well, Bingley… Miss Elizabeth and I had much to discuss." This answer was not wholly satisfactory to Bingley, but he knew from experience that silence (and staring) was a more effective method of extracting information from his friend. The carriage was drawing close to Netherfield when Darcy asked, "Tell me Bingley, how you would feel about being brothers?"
The horses stopped at the front steps just before the door opened. Noticing Bingley's wide-eyed expression, Darcy gave him a lopsided grin, jumped out and bound up the front steps. Bingley recovered from the shock enough to dash after his friend who was walking into the drawing room after handing off his hat to the butler.
"Some friend you are!" Bingley cried giving his own hat to the butler before following Darcy into the brightly lit room. "When did this all come about? You didn't even let on. Please do not keep this to yourself."
"Heaven forbid." Darcy shook his head good naturedly and thought on what parts of the story he was willing to share. You must understand, dear reader, that Fitzwilliam Darcy has always been a private fellow. This facet of his personality became more pronounced with the deaths of his parents and the great responsibilities he took on due to his position. Only a select few intimate friends and family have had the pleasure of knowing his true character. Most of society believed him to be taciturn and unpleasant rather than simply shy and reserved. To win the heart of his beloved, Mr. Darcy learned a great lesson and resolved to be open with his close friend, especially since they shall soon share the same family. He walked to the fireplace and supported himself against the mantle. "I will say that it is a long time in coming. I have been in love with Miss Elizabeth since you let Netherfield and, in fact, made the decision to address her when she visited Kent."
Bingley exclaimed, "I had no idea that you even liked her!"
"Neither did she." Darcy said in a flippant manner.
"Why did you not announce your engagement before? You haven't asked Mr. Bennet. Why… you could have been married by now!"
"Yes, I realize." He was only slightly annoyed. "But you must understand that I behaved abominably and was rejected. You saw Miss Elizabeth yourself when she visited Pemberley. It was at that time I set out to win her affection. I am pleased beyond measure to learn this morning I have succeeded and she has agreed to be Mrs. Darcy."
Mr. Bingley was practically bouncing on the seat. "What great news! This was a good day indeed! Tell me of your plans at once."
Mr. Darcy was gratified to know that Bingley was not interested in hearing more of the past. He almost sighed before taking a seat himself on a comfortable-looking chair. He told his friend of his hope of speaking more to his Elizabeth, his intention of requesting permission from Mr. Bennet as soon as may be, and his desire to have the banns read as soon as it can be managed.
Bingley could not remember seeing Darcy in such good spirits. Between the two of them they drank three bottles of Madeira and enjoyed their camaraderie.
Before retiring for the remainder of the night, Darcy thought to request, "Is it too much to ask that the news of my engagement be concealed from Miss Bingley for the time being? Perhaps you can extend an invitation to dinner and we can share the news then."
Bingley chuckled and stood to leave the room, "That is a fine idea. I shall not breathe a word of it. Just know that I will be keeping an ear out for her scream, for the whole neighborhood will know the truth then. I would watch my back if I were you!"
Darcy had no doubts of his words. He was actually surprised that lady had not managed to compromise him in some way. She was diligent in the chase to win his hand in every other method possible. She made him uneasy. His request to hold off on announcing his betrothal was for no other reason than self-preservation. Better to wait until others were present.
It was much better for him to think of Elizabeth. He smiled to himself as his valet assisted his undressing routine thinking of Miss Bingley's reaction if Elizabeth were to tell her. He blew out the candle and fell into a contented sleep thinking of the lovely set of expressive eyes and luscious lips belonging to his Elizabeth.