That same evening…
Unbeknownst to Darcy and Elizabeth they were garnering quite the audience as they gazed at each other. They would have continued to do so had there not been a discrete cough from the colonel alerting them to the fact that they had indeed lost track of the conversation. The colonel was smirking at the couple rather knowingly much to Darcy's chagrin but as Lizzy was not one to get embarrassed too easily she laughed it off merrily drawing the attention of Georgiana.
"Of what do you speak, brother that has Miss Bennet so merry?"
As soon as Georgiana had spoken Lizzy, Darcy and the colonel broke into peals of laughter confusing the young girl. Thinking she had said the wrong thing Georgiana asked what they found so amusing. When Darcy enlightened Georgiana as to why they were laughing she couldn't help but join them in their merriment. "Never would I have thought that I would have anything in common with our aunt De Bourgh! Did she really demand to be a part of your private conversation, cousin?"
"She did indeed, Georgiana. Though I think it may have had something to do with Darcy's inability to focus on anything when Miss Bennet was in the room! God forbid he should be focussing on anything other than our aunt when she deigns to speak!"
This latest speech earned the colonel a scowl and a laugh in equal measure from his cousin. He cared not a jot for his cousin and her fair friend were laughing heartily at his playfulness.
"Mark my words, colonel. One of these days your playful manner is going to get you into trouble. It is lucky for you that I like you so much for I dearly delight in picking apart absurdities!"
"Miss Bennet is correct, Fitzwilliam. I have seen her in action and you would not last a minute going up against such a fine opponent though I should dearly love to see how you would fare!"
"You would feed me to the wolves for sport, would you Darcy? The colonel mockingly scoffed at his cousin delighting in the fact that Darcy was in the mood to poke fun at him. In the last few months it was rare to see Darcy in a jovial mood and the colonel put it down to the fact that Miss Bennet was in residence at Pemberley presently.
"If Miss Bennet is the one making you look like a fool, Fitzwilliam then I would gladly do so!"
At this time Georgiana was nearly holding her sides in laughter at her poor cousin and he remarked on it. "This is a fine thing. The one person I thought would be on my side in any argument is now laughing at my expense! Have you turned traitor on me now, my fair cousin? I thought I was your favourite cousin." The colonel pouted in jest hoping to see Georgiana laugh more and he was rewarded. Bingley chose the lull in conversation to join the fray.
"What's this? Miss Bennet is seated at the pianoforte but there is no music! You wound me Miss Bennet for I had requested a song or two did I not?"
Elizabeth could not help but smile at Bingley's attempt at levity and she replied in kind. "Indeed you did Mr Bingley and I am heartily sorry. As you see my fingers await your orders. What shall I play next?"
Before Bingley could answer Georgiana moved to the pianoforte and brought forward a piece of music that made Elizabeth take a second glance. Lizzy looked up at Georgiana and asked her if she was sure she wished her to play this particular piece.
"I would dearly love to hear you play it, Miss Bennet if you would be so kind. It is a piece I have been practicing at some length but I have not been entirely satisfied with the result. I would like to hear it afresh, please?"
With her kind words and seeing Georgiana's pleading eyes Lizzy could hardly refuse such an entreaty however she wished she could avoid playing 'Voi Che Sapete' from Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro', the words alone were enough to make her blush. She hoped that none of the gentlemen knew or understood the significance of the words as she played and sang.
Luckily for Elizabeth the only gentleman present who understood the language was Mr Darcy and he was not inclined to embarrass her further by saying he spoke fluent Italian. So Mr Darcy sat down on the sofa with clearest view of Lizzy's fair countenance and enjoyed her performance with a warm smile.
When Lizzy finished playing on the pianoforte she couldn't look up at Mr Darcy for she was unsure whether she wished to see that his feelings for her had not changed or whether she feared that they had changed. Oh she realised she was being irrational for she knew that he esteemed her, what happened in April was enough to convince her of that but had he forgiven her her outspoken dislike of him? It did not seem to matter how many instances in the past couple of hours that showed her he had forgiven her she still wished to hear it from his lips and there seemed to be no time that night for them to speak privately. It was all so frustrating!
It originated in Mr Bingley who was delighted that Miss Bennet had favoured them with such wonderful playing. Mr Bingley requested that she play another tune for she had played the last one uncommonly well but Lizzy's heart was too full to focus on another rendition. She begged Miss Darcy's forgiveness but she wished to retire as she was tired after the excitement of the day's events. She would be better company in the morning once she had had a good night's rest. Lizzy left the music room without a backwards glance for she was afraid if she should gaze upon Mr Darcy's face she would show her heightened emotions. Once out in the hallway Elizabeth sought out Mrs Reynolds for she was in need of some fresh air and was desirous to know if she could go out into the gardens for a moment or two.
Mrs Reynolds smiled at the young woman understanding her need to get away for a brief respite and replied, "Certainly Miss Bennet, you may go into Lady Anne's favourite garden. It is close to the house and will be illuminated by both candlelight from within and the moonlight so you need not fear it being too dark." The housekeeper leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, "It is also a very private space, Miss Bennet. It was Lady Anne's refuge from a busy world. So you need not be disturbed if that is your wish."
"Thank you ever so much Mrs Reynolds. That is just what I would wish! Some solitude would be most welcome at this time."
"You are very welcome. If you turn the corner on your left, Miss Bennet you will see a row of lavender it will lead you to some hedgerows which in turn will lead you to an opening of a small garden filled with white roses, Lady Anne's favourite flower. At its centre is a small seat where you can rest awhile to your heart's content. Do not leave it longer than an hour to return to the house as Mr Graves will likely lock up the house by then."
After donning her spencer; she decided to forgo wearing her bonnet wanting to feel as much fresh air as possible Elizabeth followed Mrs Reynolds' instructions and soon found herself in a haven not quite hidden from the house. Lizzy could still see the music room from the garden. For a moment Lizzy closed her eyes and breathed in the aroma that surrounded her. There were white roses everywhere and even in the midst of them Lizzy could still smell a hint of lavender. In that instance Lizzy felt more relaxed than she ever felt even at home in Longbourn and as she leaned back into the seat she whispered to no one but herself, "I would gladly stay my whole life in Derbyshire if only for moments such as this."
"You would indeed be most welcome to stay, Miss Bennet."
At the sound of Mr Darcy's voice Lizzy started and could do nothing but stare at him for a moment. Recollecting herself she answered him in what she hoped was a calm voice.
"Forgive me, Mr Darcy I did not see you there."
Mr Darcy who had been watching Elizabeth as she discovered his mother's garden smiled at her as he drew closer. "It is I who should apologise, Miss Bennet for not announcing my presence sooner but I did not want to intrude on your solitude."
Elizabeth blushed at the thought of Mr Darcy observing her. Thank goodness I did nothing to embarrass myself! More to relieve her feelings she said in a teasing tone, "One would think you were following them, Mr Darcy."
"I would go wherever you were, Miss Bennet."
For the second time that evening Elizabeth felt her breath catch in her throat. Oh dear Lord! Did he really mean that?! In a momentary bout of embarrassment and as a sudden bolt of happiness flowed through her, Lizzy looked away from him.
Mr Darcy looked down at Elizabeth and admired how the moonlight somehow reflected in her hair. She had never looked as lovely to him as she did in that moment. Lifting her chin so she was looking at him Mr Darcy whispered almost reverently, "You are too generous to trifle with me, Miss Bennet. If your feelings are what they were in April, tell me so at once. My feelings and wishes are unchanged. But one word from you will silence me on this subject forever. Do put me out of this exquisite torment and consent to be my wife! I will do anything in this world to make you happy dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!"
Suddenly overwhelmed with the deluge of feelings coursing through her veins, Elizabeth felt her eyes fill up with tears of happiness as she laughed.
"You do not know how often I have despaired of you ever uttering those words to me again, Mr Darcy. I was certain you would never forgive my harsh words to you in April! Oh my feelings, my feelings they are so very different. In fact they are quite the opposite."
"Truly?! Do you really mean that? Does this mean that you consent to be my wife?"
Laughing Elizabeth answered him with her heart full, "Yes, Mr Darcy I will be your wife!"
The happiness those words elicited in Darcy was indescribable. He did not know what to feel first; elation or disbelief. After months of uncertainty and wondering how in the world he could ever expect Elizabeth to love him; how he was going to convince her to even like him and now he understood her feelings had changed! What he could not express in words for words for what he was feeling at the present time were just not enough but he could express them through his actions. With a restraint he did not know he possessed he gathered her hands in his and kissed them while saying to Elizabeth, "You have made me the happiest man in all of England, Elizabeth!"
Again Elizabeth laughed as she replied, "For who could refuse you, Mr Darcy when such vistas as these are before her!" Elizabeth gestured to the gardens, "Pemberley is so very grand, is it not?" As she impishly uttered those words Darcy's restraint slipped and he kissed her soundly.
A/N: OK so Darcy and Elizabeth are engaged but have you all realised that Jane's letter has yet to come? Their happiness will be short but only for a little while I promise! I must stick with the events in the book! 'Voi Che Sapete' is the aria that Lizzy sings when she's at Pemberley in the masterpiece that is the BBC 1995 production of 'Pride and Prejudice'. It's possibly my favourite scene in that miniseries and it's all down to Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth's performance, it's just a beautiful scene!