Welcome back to Austen Promises! 😀
What I have for you today is another segment of last week’s story. I will not be posting it in its entirety, just in small pieces, one a week until I post. The story has finally taken root and I have gotten past the wall…so much past that I had to add to the middle of what I already had and am now moving on to the next part. So, here are a few words that I added to it in the last few days.
In today’s segment, Darcy has called on Elizabeth for several weeks, and she, her relatives, and Bingley have gone to various dinners, balls, and outings together.
Friday evening, Darcy’s valet, Mr. Smith, bit back an exclamation of irritation with his master. Never, in all the years in the gentleman’s employ, had Smith seen such pernickety behavior from the normally stoic Mr. Darcy. His coat was not good enough, did he not have another? His cravat was crooked. His hair was too wild. On and on the complaints went. Smith was amused, at first. In general, his employer, though fastidious about his appearance, kept his opinions to himself as long as the valet was meticulous in his work. The only thing Smith could think of that would cause such a change was a woman. It did not take long, however, for Darcy’s choosiness to become annoying. Finally, after what felt to the servant like forever, the master was happy with his appearance. Smith had never been so happy to see the back of someone in his entire life.
Darcy was unaware of the difference in his behavior. He knew himself to be looking forward to the evening, more than he had looked forward to an evening out in a long time. It was not until he and his carriage were nearly to Gracechurch Street that Darcy realized that his excitement was manifesting itself physically. He had removed his gloves upon entering the vehicle and had proceeded to twist them into an almost-unrecognizable mess. Calm yourself, man. It is just an evening out with friends. Nothing to get overwrought about.
When the equipage finally stopped and the groom opened the door, Darcy stepped out and stood staring at the door to the house. Suddenly and unaccountably apprehensive, he began to wonder if he should turn around and reboard the carriage when the portal opened. Swallowing his sudden nerves, Darcy climbed the steps and entered the building.
Seeing Gardiner’s smiling face greeting him in the drawing room went a long way toward relieving Darcy’s emotions. He returned the man’s smile with one of his own as they exchanged greetings. Bowing to Mrs. Gardiner and taking a seat while he waited for the young ladies, Darcy began to relax.
It was only a few brief minutes before the door to the sitting room opened and Miss Bennet glided into the room. Everyone stood, Darcy included. He thought the lady was stunningly beautiful, though he realized that his opinion of her was dispassionate. He held no feeling for her, despite her grace and fine looks. He no more than completed this thought than her sister entered the room.
Miss Elizabeth took his breath away. She was stunning in an emerald green gown that enhanced the color of her eyes. When she smiled at him, his heart stopped beating for just a moment. As if from far away, he heard her relatives greeting her, but did not comprehend the words. He reached out to take the hand she extended, bowing over it as she curtseyed. “Miss Elizabeth,” he rasped, mouth dry and throat suddenly thick. He stared into her eyes when he was suddenly brought back to reality by the sound of laughter. He tore his eyes from hers as he let go of her hand.
“Well,” Mr. Gardiner rubbed his hands together, his eagerness for the evening’s entertainment plain for all to see. “Shall we go, then?”
Darcy cleared his throat before speaking. “Yes, let us do that.” He turned to Elizabeth, offering her his arm.
Gardiner and his wife, who had witnessed their friend’s dumbstruck awe at the sight of their niece, shared a wink and a smile. Mrs. Gardiner tucked her hand under her husband’s elbow as he held the other out to Jane. They followed Darcy and Elizabeth out into the entry hall to gather their wraps, and then out of doors and into the carriage.
Conversation was lively on the way to the theater, with much speculation being bandied about in regards to the play they were to see. Darcy had recovered his wits and was able to participate with more ease than he usually had in company.
Eventually, after waiting in a long line of carriages to reach the entrance of the theater, the equipage stopped and a groom opened the door. Darcy climbed out first, followed by Gardiner, who handed out his wife and eldest niece before moving away with a lady on each arm. Quickly stepping up to the carriage, Darcy extended his hand inside, feeling his heart race as Elizabeth took it and he assisted her down. Tucking her hand under his elbow, he turned them toward the theater door, but paused. He had not noticed the size of the crowd before, and immediately upon realizing it, he tensed. His face formed his usual stoic mask.
Elizabeth immediately recognized her companion’s changed demeanor as similar to his look the day she met him. Recalling what he had said about being uncomfortable in crowds, she set out to relax him. “If I did not have proof that you do, in fact, like me, I should be very much afraid that you invited myself and my family here out of a sense of obligation, Mr. Darcy.”
Startled, Darcy looked down at the lady on his arm. So surprised was he at her words that his visage lost all sternness and his astonishment was clear in his eyes. “Indeed not, Miss Elizabeth! I am sorry to have led you to believe such a thing.”
With an impish smile, Elizabeth allowed that he was forgiven. “You became far too stiff. I much prefer the relaxed and charming gentleman I have come to know you to be.” She leaned closer and lowered her voice. “You are not alone, sir, not anymore. Only if you wish to be.”
A slow smile spread over Darcy’s face at her words. “Thank you, Miss Elizabeth. I will keep that in mind.”
Once Bingley had joined them, the group made their way to their box. The remainder of the evening passed quickly for the entire party. Darcy was once again impressed with the manner in which both Bennet ladies managed the stares and impertinent questions of the other attendees. Always they were polite, but both had the ability to deflect unwanted attention, Miss Bennet by merely redirecting the conversation and Miss Elizabeth with an arch comment that often insulted without seeming to do so.
Bingley, as he had the first time, remained at Miss Bennet’s side. Darcy took advantage of Elizabeth’s presence to ask about it.
“Oh, yes, he has called on Jane three times now. I think he likes her, very much. When he visited yesterday, he told us that he is leasing an estate in Hertfordshire that is very near to Longbourn.”
“He mentioned it to me, as well.” Darcy tilted his head, looking thoughtful as he took in her features. “Shall I be welcomed, if I join him?”
“You know you will, sir.” Elizabeth smiled softly. She had come to greatly enjoy spending time with this gentleman. She knew her heart, though she did not know his. She had hopes; however, she did not know if they would be fulfilled.
Darcy’s heart soared with her words. They had been acquainted for two months now, and he had been calling on her for almost half that time. He knew his heart; now he had hope that, should he ask for her hand, it would be accepted. “Might I call on you in the morning, Miss Elizabeth? I should like a private audience with you.”
Elizabeth’s smile broke over her face like a ray of sunshine. “You may.”
Both turned back to the play, and wore happy smiles for the rest of the evening.
Copyright 2017 by the author
As always, I eagerly await your thoughts!