Mrs. Bennet pushed hard for special licenses, but Jane, Elizabeth, and their fiancés were entirely happy to wait for the banns to be read. This ensured that Mary and Lydia had the time to travel to see their sisters wed.
Lydia was little changed by her trip to Brighton. She told her sisters that she had two officers who were very fond of her and she would not be a bit surprised if she received offers from both of them. Jane and Elizabeth tried to counsel her that her current course of behavior was damaging to her reputation, and that she should not encourage two men at the same time unless she wanted to be considered an irredeemable flirt.
“The way you two worry! There is nothing shameful in being so charming that more than one man wishes to take you for his wife. Not that you two would know, accepting the first man that asks. However, if your future husbands are to have any wealthy friends who are in need of an agreeable young wife, I might be able to set aside my preference for a regimental.”
Elizabeth and Jane both agreed, privately, that they had no intention of introducing Lydia to any single friends of Mr. Bingley or Mr. Darcy – ever.
Mr. Darcy brought Georgiana to stay at Netherfield for several days prior to the wedding. Georgiana was very uncomfortable around Mrs. Wickham – she knew that it was her intervention that had caused her brother to propose in the first place, and she was ashamed at how easily she had been fooled by a false friend. However, Elizabeth extended her every kindness, and Georgiana found a dear friend in Kitty. Darcy very much approved of his sister forming a friendship with Elizabeth’s sister. Kitty was made better for the friendship, as well, and was much less susceptible to Lydia’s manipulation.
As for Mr. and Mrs. Wickham, they were unabashed in their behavior. Mrs. Wickham had no intention of losing any social stature due to her mistakes, and so she held her head high and spoke highly of her husband to anyone who asked. In fact, Mr. Wickham suited her nature far better than Mr. Darcy had. Their mutual concern for their improvement in society led to increased opportunities for them – however, whether they were able to keep these acquaintances after their true personalities were revealed was another matter entirely.
The day of the wedding arrived quickly. Jane and Elizabeth reveled in helping one another prepare for the ceremony, donning their finest dresses and weaving flowers through their hair. Never have there been two brides who were more agreeable or lovely, for both sisters shined with true love. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy exchanged glances as their brides entered the church. Whoever would have imagined that Bingley letting an estate in Hertfordshire would lead both of them to love?
The ceremony was over quickly and Mr. & Mrs. Bingley and Mr. & Mrs. Darcy were cheered by all of those in attendance. Mrs. Bennet had made quite a mess of Mr. Bennet’s handkerchief in her joy, but even he was feeling predisposed to happiness on that day and did not even mention it.
The Bingleys had invited the Darcys to stay at Netherfield, and although they were anxious to return to Pemberley, they availed themselves of this offer for several days. Mr. Darcy opened the door to the carriage to his wife and extended his hand to help her enter. As she placed her hand in hers, he was reminded of the day at Netherfield, which seemed so long ago, where he helped her alight the carriage after Jane’s illness. The sparkle in her eyes this time was worlds away from the distrust that he had seen on the previous day. Darcy settled next to Elizabeth in the carriage, turned to her, and kissed her in exactly the manner he had been dreaming of since that day. And never, before or since, has there been a couple as incandescently happy.