The Darcys stayed in London for several more days. On the fourth day after dining with the Bingleys, Elizabeth received the letter she had been hoping for. She and Georgiana were conversing in the sitting room when it arrived. She tore it open quickly and read what her sister had written.
“Jane is to marry Mr. Bingley,” she said triumphantly.
“Oh, it is so romantic,” Georgiana said. “I shall only marry for love.”
Georgiana seemed to quickly realize the error in what she had said. Certainly she would never be in a situation where she would have to marry a man she did not love because of unfortunate circumstances; her status afforded her a freedom that Elizabeth had been denied.
Nonetheless, Elizabeth felt the need to comfort her new sister. “Perhaps one day you might be swept away by a tall, handsome man, just as I have been,” she said lightly.
“But perhaps a bit more blond,” mused Georgiana.
“If that is your preference.”
Georgiana’s eyes suddenly looked sad. “I have not had good luck with dark-haired men.”
Elizabeth was surprised to hear this. What luck had Georgiana had with any men? She thought back to Darcy’s statement about Georgiana’s delicacy. Was there more to that story than she understood? She could not ask directly, but she wondered if Georgiana would ever trust her enough to tell the story behind her statement.
At that moment, Darcy came into the room. Elizabeth told him the news, and he seemed genuinely happy for Mr. Bingley and Jane.
If only Mr. Bingley had known! she thought. He would have proposed to Jane, and I would have been free to marry for love.
She looked at Darcy, who met her eyes and smiled. Certainly she could have done worse for herself. But at the same time, would she ever be able to work out the mystery of who her husband really was? She hoped that she would. It would not do to be this confused for the rest of her life.
The following day they left for Pemberley. This trip was much less awkward than the previous one, in large part because Elizabeth had Georgiana to speak to. She was relieved how quickly she had come to like and trust her sister-in-law.
Elizabeth had never been to the Peak District before, although she had heard about it from her Aunt Gardiner, who was raised in the village of Lambton. It was a beautiful trip, and the land was much more dramatic than what Elizabeth was used to from living in Hertfordshire. She did not know if she would ever be able to consider this hilly terrain to be her home. It was yet another thing to which she would need to adjust.
More quickly than Elizabeth had expected, Darcy announced that they were turning onto Pemberley land. The carriage drove down a tree-lined lane. Elizabeth strained to see the house, but it was not visible.
“The estate is rather large,” said Georgiana. “It will be a bit before the house comes into view.”
Elizabeth smiled nervously and took in the view of the countryside. It was beautiful, even in the winter with the leaves off the trees. She could not imagine how extraordinary the view would be in spring and summer, when everything was in bloom.
“There it is,” Georgiana said.
Elizabeth looked, and finally got her first glimpse of Pemberley. It was even more splendid than she had expected. It rose majestically from the manicured park to the sky. The rectangular house was a wonder of windows, pillars, and stone. She had never seen a house so large, and suddenly the town house did not seem quite as impressive.
The carriage stopped in front of the large stairway leading to the main entrance. Elizabeth could not stop staring, even as she alighted the carriage. How could anyone live in a home this large and this fine?
Darcy offered her his arm, and she took it, relieved to have something to hold on to. The butler met them at the top of the stairs.
“Welcome home, Mr. Darcy; Mrs. Darcy; Miss Darcy.”
They continued into the entrance hall, which was no less impressive than what she had already seen. The ceiling soared above them, covered in frescoes. The marble floor seemed to amplify each footfall. Ahead of her, Elizabeth saw a grand stairway, in front of which waited the staff.
“Welcome to your new home, Elizabeth,” Darcy said quietly in her ear. Suddenly she was not ready to let go of his arm. Everything was so grand and different from what she was used to. Darcy was the only constant, and she had come to feel that nothing bad could befall her with him standing at her side.
“Allow me to introduce your new mistress,” Darcy said to the staff.
As Elizabeth looked around, she saw nothing but pleasant faces. She was relieved to receive a friendly reception.
“Mr. Combes you met when he opened the door,” said Darcy, gesturing to the butler, “and this is the housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds.”
Mrs. Reynolds curtsied. “Such a pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” she said. “If you need anything, please let me know.”
Elizabeth smiled, suspecting that she would be in great need over the next few weeks as she learned about the estate.
“And now I shall show you to your chambers,” said Darcy. He waved away the offer of help from Mrs. Reynolds. He led her up the stairs and turned down a hallway.
“This hallway houses our suites,” he said. “The other bedrooms are elsewhere in the house. Once you are settled, I am certain that Mrs. Reynolds would be delighted to give you a tour.”
They walked to the end of the hallway and through a magnificent set of double doors. The room that they walked into was decorated in understated elegance, with sumptuous fabrics and muted colors. A grand fireplace stood at one end of the room.
“This is a sitting room for your own personal use,” said Darcy. “We shall decorate it in any way you like.”
He then led her through doors at the other end of the room.
“This is your bed chamber,” he said. The design from the sitting room continued in this room. The four-poster bed was hung with fabric that matched that of the curtains, and a fire was already built in the fireplace, giving the room an appropriately drowsy warmth.
Darcy pointed at a smaller door recessed in a wall.
“That door connects to a door in my bed chamber,” he said. “There are locks on both doors. You are welcome to leave yours locked, as I have no intention of disturbing you in here without your permission. Mine will always remain open to you.”
For a moment Darcy’s mind wandered to what would happen once that permission was granted, and he lost his train of thought. He shook his head and quickly regained his composure.
“Is there anything else that you need or desire? If not, perhaps you would like some time to adjust to your new surroundings.”
“I am overwhelmed,” said Elizabeth. “It may take me the remainder of my life just to learn where everything is.”
“Well, it is good that we have a lifetime, then,” said Darcy. He took her hand, kissed it, bowed, and left. Elizabeth was once again startled by her reaction to his touch. It had thrilled her when his lips touched the back of her hand. She had to be careful—very careful—to listen to her head in regards to Mr. Darcy. There could be no more thrilling at his touch until she understood him more and worked out what kind of man he truly was.