Life felt a little less bright after the Bingleys’ departure, so Elizabeth turned her mind to other pursuits in an effort to divert herself: namely, to creating a situation that would cast Stewart and Thomas together. She and Georgiana began to put into action the plan that they had devised.
One morning, while in her sitting room, Elizabeth said, “I would like to see what these chairs would look like nearer the fireplace. See if you can find a footman who would be able to move them for me.”
Stewart hurried off, and the plan had begun. Elizabeth and Georgiana had determined that Thomas was likely to be the easiest footman to find at that particular time of day. Elizabeth waited, hoping it would work.
After several minutes, Stewart entered the room, followed by Thomas. Elizabeth had to work hard not to smile that things were going according to plan.
Elizabeth then proceeded to be very indecisive, having Thomas move furniture all about the room. Each time, she pretended she was not yet satisfied, and asked for Stewart’s opinion. Finally, after this had gone on for some time and the room was in entirely the incorrect order, Georgiana sent her lady’s maid to Elizabeth to tell her that Georgiana had urgent need of her company.
“Now that I look at it again, I think I like the way the furniture was originally. Could you please move it back while I check on Miss Darcy? Stewart, you can show him where everything belongs.”
And with that, she left, smiling to herself. They would not be engaged by the time they were done, but at least they were in the same room for a while.
“Well?” said Georgiana, smiling. “How did it go?”
“I am sure Thomas is none too pleased with my indecision, but I left them together to put the room back as it was. If nothing else, that gives them time together and something to talk about.”
“Oh, I do hope it works. They would be such a darling couple!”
“We will just have to continue helping them along,” said Elizabeth with a smile.
Over the next several weeks, there were more opportunities for Stewart and Thomas to spend time together. Elizabeth and Georgiana decided to take a trip to Lambton to visit the milliner. This was unusual, as they had access to the best milliners in London, but they relied on the fact that no one would question them. Stewart came along because Elizabeth trusted her opinion, and Thomas came to carry packages and assist the ladies with the carriage.
Elizabeth was delighted to see Stewart and Thomas conversing during the trip. She was laughing at some comment he made and he was smiling broadly at her. Elizabeth hoped that after a few more occasions of spending time together, things would begin to happen on their own.
One night, Stewart seemed lost in her thoughts as she helped Elizabeth prepare for bed. She hummed softly and smiled rather more than usual.
“What a lovely mood you are in, Stewart!” said Elizabeth.
“Indeed, my lady.”
“May I ask what has brought you so much happiness?”
Stewart blushed. “Do you remember what I confessed to you in regards to Thomas, the footman?”
“Yes, I recall something of that,” Elizabeth said, trying not to smile.
“Well, we have been talking lately, and it has been lovely. I think that he may even esteem me as highly as I do him!”
“Oh, Stewart, that is wonderful news!” said Elizabeth. “I knew he would not be able to resist you.”
“You are too kind,” said Stewart, casting her eyes down.
“No, I just understand people,” Elizabeth said. She thought of her husband. “Well, most people, that is.”
Elizabeth and Stewart continued to chat while Elizabeth’s bedtime preparations were finished. She drifted off to sleep that night pleased that someone, at least, was happy.
Much less intervention was required now that Thomas and Stewart were talking. Elizabeth spied them speaking in front of the house, and Georgiana reported that she had come upon them in the hallway. They were standing just a bit too close to one another for it to be proper, and both took a surprised step back when they saw Georgiana. Stewart nearly floated about the room, humming happy tunes and smiling to herself. Elizabeth and Georgiana were delighted their plan had been so successful.
If only Elizabeth’s own relationship was so successful. Darcy was acting very strangely when they were together, as if he wished to talk to her but then changing his mind. Why, once, he had come directly to her sitting room, only to discuss what sort of fruit tree should be planted in the garden. She knew there was more going on than he was saying, but she was unsure what it was. If she was doing something wrong, it would be unlike him not to inform her of it.
Did he want to revisit the subject of consummating the marriage? Elizabeth was still nowhere near ready, but he had been patient with her for months. Perhaps she had reached the limits of his goodwill. If that was the case, Elizabeth preferred that he continue to dance around the conversation, as it was not one she had any interest in having. Regardless, his nervousness led to her being on edge all the time as well.
What Darcy was trying, and failing, to do was to take Bingley’s advice and tell Elizabeth honestly how he felt about her. He could handle every situation with calm and aplomb—except this one. He still was not prepared for Elizabeth to tell him she did not share his feelings. It would cut him too deeply.
So they were both in a greater state of agitation than they had been at any point since they married, and they were no closer to understanding one another. Things might have gone on this way for some time, had Mr. Darcy not visited London.