Elizabeth was delighted to have her sister at Pemberley, even for only a few days. Jane and Georgiana instantly liked one another, and it made Pemberley feel more like home to Elizabeth than it ever had before. Bingley and Darcy busied themselves with gentlemanly pursuits, leaving the ladies free to enjoy one another’s company.
“You seem so very happy,” said Elizabeth, with a smile. “I would expect nothing less.”
“It has been an absolute dream,” said Jane, returning her sister’s smile. “I could not be happier.”
“Oh,” sighed Georgiana, “that is what I wish for! It must be so wonderful to be wed to someone that you love with all your heart!”
Yes, thought Elizabeth. It must be, but I would not know. She wondered if it was possible that she would learn to love Mr. Darcy, or that he would learn to love her. It could happen, she supposed, but it was far from a certainty.
“You are in agony,” said Bingley as he and Darcy played a game of billiards.
Darcy gave him a sharp look. “What do you mean?” he said. “I am fine. Why should I not be fine?”
“The only person who does not know how deeply you love your wife is, well, your wife.”
Darcy considered denying it, but he knew that Bingley would see through that lie as well.
“It is difficult,” he admitted. “I am so close to her, and yet so far away.”
“I imagined that she would have warmed to you by now,” said Bingley.
“Did you? Have you met the lady in question?” said Darcy with a wry smile. “She is a far cry less agreeable than your own wife.” He did not need to add that Elizabeth’s fire was a large part of his attraction to her.
“I cannot imagine marriage to a Miss Bennet being disagreeable,” said Bingley, his eyes taking on a far-away look as he thought of his wife.
“Bingley. Even you must admit that we have claimed the best of the Bennets,” said Darcy. “Could you imagine marriage to any of the younger sisters?”
Bingley looked alarmed at the idea. “You make a good point. Well, I cannot imagine marriage with Elizabeth Bennet as disagreeable. She is so lovely, and so witty!”
“Those things she is. What she is not is mine in any way other than the legal one,” Darcy said.
“Does she know how you feel?” asked Bingley.
“How could she not?” said Darcy. “The concessions I have made for her! The things that I have tolerated from her that I should never from anyone else.”
“But have you told her?”
“I feel like there is no need,” said Darcy. “My feelings are clear.”
“To you, but perhaps not to her,” said Bingley gently. “I think that you should tell her, in terms that cannot be mistaken, that you love her.”
The idea filled Darcy with panic. What would he do if she told him directly she did not love him? Even worse, what if she told him she could never love him? That was a possibility he could not bear. However, Bingley was looking at him so hopefully that Darcy could not deny his friend.
“I shall take your advice under consideration,” Darcy said as he lined up his next shot.
Bingley knew his friend well enough to know Darcy considered that the end of the conversation.
It amazed Elizabeth how fast the week with the Bingleys flew by, considering how slow the weeks preceding their arrival had seemed. She was happier than she had been at any other point since she and Darcy had married. Jane and Bingley brought life to Pemberley and joy to Elizabeth. She wished that they could stay forever.
Alas, such a thing could not be. After their week was up, the Bingleys prepared to return to Netherfield. Elizabeth could not hold back the tears when speaking with Jane.
“Jane, I shall miss you more than I can put into words,” she said, tears running down her face.
“Oh, Lizzy, I shall miss you too. But we will visit again soon, or perhaps you can visit us? It will not be long before we see one another again.”
“How do I do this, Jane?” Elizabeth said. “I did not plan on a marriage without love in it. I do not know how to be a wife. How do I proceed? You make it look so easy.”
“I think you are wrong to say that you are in a marriage without love,” Jane said gently. “Your husband obviously esteems you highly. Could that not be evidence of strong feelings towards you?”
“My husband is polite to me because he is well-raised,” said Elizabeth.
“I think you misunderstand him, Lizzy,” said Jane. “Give him another chance. Open your mind, and perhaps your heart, to him and see where it takes you.”
“It feels too dangerous to give him that sort of power over me.”
“One thing that I have learned, Lizzy: it is impossible to love without giving up a little bit of control.”
“Well then,” said Elizabeth with a grim smile. “That is a problem. Control is something neither of us are willing to cede.”
No one was pleased to see the Bingleys go, as the entire visit had been so pleasant. Darcy and Elizabeth were both nervous about returning to their normal life, as neither knew the state of their relationship. And Georgiana was left in the middle, knowing what would be possible if only the two of them would speak to one another honestly.