“I can manage, Miss Elizabeth, but thank ‘e for the warning.”
Lizzy hid her smile, and did not embarrass the determined butler by watching him struggle to lift the weighty pieces. Instead she turned away and finished the task of stowing her belongings into the luggage bags to be carried with her day after tomorrow. Ignoring the grunts and muttered curses as Mr. Hill carried the boxes to the waiting wagon, Lizzy latched the portmanteau and sat it beside her wardrobe, it now empty except for her wedding dress and a couple other garments. For probably the twentieth time that morning, and most certainly not for the last time that day or the next to come, her eyes scanned over the room. Slowly she walked from corner to corner, traversing the modest space of the bedchamber that she would sleep in for only two more nights. Her fingertips brushed the worn furniture surfaces, hands opened drawers and doors to make sure she had forgotten nothing important, and eyes traveled along the walls and floor edges just in case a vital object had been overlooked or fallen to the ground and hidden.
Jane’s boxes were neatly stacked by the window. She hadn’t needed to be as thorough as Lizzy due to the close proximity of Longbourn to Netherfield. Lizzy was suddenly very thankful of this fact. Having a portion of Jane’s possessions lying about cast an illusion of normalcy – if one didn’t stare too hard. The contrast between the once cozy, lived-in chamber and the gutted room to be a week or so hence, wasn’t as jarring to the senses as long as some clothing, cosmetics, and trinkets were present.
Nevertheless, the typically unsentimental Elizabeth Bennet was far too frequently feeling overcome with waves of emotion and stinging tears.
A pair of slender arms slipped around her waist, squeezing tight as a dulcet voice near her ear whispered, “No shame in shedding tears, my Lizzy. I have shed a few myself, and I will be able to gradually distance myself from Longbourn. For you the pain will be stronger, even with Mr. Darcy to comfort, as I am certain he will.”
Lizzy brushed a tear off her cheek and attempted to laugh at her childishness. It came out as a choked squeak. “I vacillate between feeling an utter fool, and telling myself it is normal to be a bit sad. Oh Jane! I want to marry William with all of my soul, can think of little else, know deep inside my bones that he is the man for me and that Pemberley will grow to become my home. Yet I cannot relinquish the melancholy either. How does that make sense?”
Jane squeezed tighter, her husky chuckle oddly comforting. “It doesn’t make sense, and that is to be expected! I could try to quote words of philosophy, or from the Bible or a poet, but in the end I judge we are normal soon-to-be-brides dealing with nervousness as all brides have since the dawn of time. Somehow they survived, most at least, so I am sure we will too.”
Lizzy turned, smiled and kissed her beloved sister on the cheek. “As always, dearest Jane, your serene soul soothes me. What will I ever do without you to tame my tumultuousness?”
Jane laughed aloud. “Once I might have submitted that Mr. Darcy is the epitome of calm, disciplined logic. I suppose he is, to a degree far more than you, Lizzy. However now, thanks to your vivid enlightenment, I am aware of his wild, passionate side. Thus, I can extend no hope for you in that area!”
“Then I am doomed,” Lizzy sighed dramatically.
“That I seriously doubt. Now, I came not with the intent to cheer you, or depress further as it were, but to alert you to the fact that Mr. Darcy has arrived. He expressed his desire to personally oversee the loading of your personal possessions before they headed to Pemberley.”
Tears were replaced by the ridiculous grin and sparkling eyes that spontaneously emerged whenever Mr. Darcy was near. Or whenever his name was mentioned, for that matter. Maintaining a casual pace descending the stairs and weaving toward the front of the house required diligent attention, it seeming to take a horribly long time until the sisters entered the main parlor on the way to the foyer. They were halted, however, by Kitty.
“Lizzy, come here!” Kitty motioned vigorously from her stance to the side of the half opened window. Curiosity won over the yearning to touch her betrothed, Lizzy, with Jane in tow, steering around the sofas to see what Kitty was grinning about. One peek out the window and Lizzy clamped a hand over her mouth to arrest the giddy giggle.
Mr. Darcy, dressed in his usual full attire with every button and loop of cravat perfect and pristine, was circling the loaded wagon, tugging on the tied ropes, adjusting the thick canvas tarp, and testing the packed boxes and objects for security. All the while, one of the drivers followed in his wake, performing the same actions but chattering in a carefree manner. Most remarkable of all was that Mr. Darcy was smiling, laughing, and chattering in the same jaunty way!
“A moment ago,” Kitty whispered, “they were talking about a fight in London. I gathered it was a sporting event of some sort. Mr. Darcy remarked on losing his bet on someone named Clubber Clyde, the man there,” Kitty indicated the lanky fellow trailing alongside Darcy, “his name is Mr. Hocking, or Tims, according to the other driver, who is Scotty, or Mr. Scott,” she pointed at a short man checking the hitches and horses, “was telling Mr. Darcy that he should never bet against Gentleman Joe. I have no idea what any of that means, but you should have seen the way Mr. Hocking was taunting Mr. Darcy!”
Lizzy was watching her beloved and the driver Tims, her smile widening. She could only hear snippets of their conversation through the cracked window, but clearly they were relating on a level plain, the current topic involving the laxity of police patrol at the docks. This reference brought to mind the whole reason why Mr. Darcy was able to converse in a familiar way with the rough men.
When the business of transporting Lizzy’s possessions to Pemberley was broached, Mr. Darcy insisted on utilizing the company he employed to carry cargo from the cotton mill he was part owner of in Derby. This news had come as a shock to Mr. Bennet. To Lizzy it wasn’t a surprise, her betrothed having gradually acquainted her with the various business enterprises he engaged in, including Pemberley. This same company, while not owned or exclusively contracted to Mr. Darcy and his partners, was also paid – and paid very well – to convey the assortment of goods brought from foreign ports into London via the ships owned by the Pemberley Estate. Mr. Darcy had shared this information humbly with a stunned Mr. Bennet, not out of embarrassment for having wise interests in numerous financial enterprises, but merely because he did not want Mr. Bennet to be offended by his insistence on paying for the transit. The fact was, Mr. Darcy trusted the company, and the men employed, and, as he said to Lizzy’s father, “this way my mind will be at ease, knowing Miss Elizabeth’s prized possessions will reach Pemberley safely.” Mr. Bennet could not argue that logic, the reality being that Mr. Darcy could pay more than he was capable, yet until that moment, even with the extremely generous settlement given his favored daughter, Mr. Bennet hadn’t fully realized the scope of wealth Mr. Darcy possessed.
Musing on this, Lizzy noted that the conversation around the wagon had changed.
“This chest is not cushioned enough for my taste. Hand me one of those blankets, Mr. Scott, and let’s move this between the boxes of books. That will add stability.”
Mr. Darcy had lifted a corner of the canvas, revealing a small curio chest that Lizzy had received for Christmas years ago. She almost hadn’t chosen to send it, deciding in the end that although cracked along the bottom edge it was perfect for her collection of miniature tea cups, and held too many memories to leave behind. Observing the personal care he was giving the item, surely worth less than a single china plate at Pemberley, touched her heart to an exquisitely painful degree.
Pivoting from the window, she dashed out of the room, took the steps in one leap, and was beside Mr. Darcy in a matter of seconds. The suddenness startled him, especially with his attention focused on looping another rope around the chest and tightly tying it to the hooks on the wagon’s sides.
“Miss Elizabeth! Lovely to see you,” he smiled gaily. “As you can see, we are securing your belongings. Mr. Scott and Mr. Hocking are the most capable drivers I know, ensuring with their lives that every last hair clip and handkerchief will reach Pemberley intact. Isn’t that right, gentlemen?”
“This is very kind of you, William,” Lizzy spoke softly, her hand clasping onto his to gain full attention. “You are very dear to extend yourself, and I hope you realize how tremendously I appreciate it. But, nothing here is worth enough to warrant you taking time away from something more pleasant on this lovely day. You do not need to trouble yourself with tying knots and spreading canvas. Frankly I cannot imagine most of my things even fitting into the splendor of Pemberley!”
“Walk with me please, Elizabeth?” He offered his arm, and after a quick order to finish the task directed at the waggoneers, he led a confused Lizzy to the small garden.
Once secluded, he stopped and turned to face her. He was frowning severely. Then he grasped her shoulders in a somewhat painful grip, speaking in a grave tone, “Elizabeth, you must understand that my home will be yours. Every chamber, from my personal bedchamber to yours, even to the smallest parlor or closet, will be under your jurisdiction. Foremost of all, you absolutely must be comfortable within your private rooms. Strip them bare, turn them into replicas of the room you now share with Miss Bennet, or decorate in French or Egyptian motifs, it makes no difference to me as long as you are happy dwelling within them. You are precious to me, do you understand? By extension, all that you own is precious to me, in that it adds to your happiness and is a part of who you are. In all honesty, I would be heartbroken if you left anything special behind at Longbourn since I am excited for the opportunity to sit with you and examine every bit of it so as to learn more of your past and your heart. I apologize if this reveals me as a maudlin sentimentalist, but there you have it! Hopefully our wedding is too far advanced in the planning stages for this to frighten you away.”
Lizzy shook her head, words failing her. So, as they were increasingly discovering to be a far better way to express their emotions toward each, she leapt into his waiting arms, showing him the depth of her pleasure and appreciation through kisses and caresses. Not too surprisingly, Mr. Darcy received the message loud and clear.
**This P&P200 vignette is the tenth I have written for the weeks leading up to the double wedding event on Nov. 16. First was Darcy Surprises Elizabeth on 10/29, then A Most Important Dinner at Darcy House on 11/1, An Enlightening Tour of Darcy House on 11/2, Mr. Darcy Goes Shopping on 11/3, After Church Picnic & Surprise on 11/4, Georgiana Hosts a Tea Party on 11/5, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s News for Darcy on 11/7, Lord and Lady Matlock Pass Judgement on 11/8, and The Bennet Women Plan for a Major Change at Longbourn posted yesterday. Next up is a post tomorrow, and two on the wedding day, 11/16. Inspired by the Darcy Saga, they may contain small portions of “flashback” moments I wrote within my sequel. However, they are altered a tad to present a differing POV and contain lots of additional information I never wrote before. New material to be enjoyed as part of the awesome Austen Authors P&P200 extravaganza! Thanks for reading, Sharon Lathan