The trip to London was awkward. Neither of them was sure what to talk about, though both could feel there was much to say in the silence that hung between them. Elizabeth spent a long time staring out the window. Finally, in an attempt at conversation, she asked Darcy about Georgiana.
Darcy’s mouth softened into an easy smile as he spoke about her sister.
“I may not be the most impartial judge, but she is an exceptional young lady. She spends much of her time practicing the piano forte and in those other pursuits that take up so much of ladies’ time. But more than that, she is a lovely person. She is kind and witty. I believe that the two of you will like each other quite a bit.”
Elizabeth smiled. It was clear how much Darcy loved his sister, and by his description, Elizabeth allowed herself to hope that she would quickly grow to love Georgiana as well. How much easier this experience would be with a sister! she thought longingly.
“Is she out in society yet?” asked Elizabeth.
Darcy was instantly guarded once again. “She is not. I think it best if she waits several years before being presented. After all, she is just sixteen.”
Elizabeth stifled a laugh at the thought of anyone trying to prevent fifteen-year-old Lydia from coming out—or indeed from doing anything that she wanted. Her parents had never been especially good at discipline and Elizabeth knew that things would not be improved by Mr. Bennet’s death.
Darcy interpreted the laugh as directed towards him. Elizabeth could actually see him putting on the face he wore in public: disinterested, cool, and distant.
“I see no cause for laughter,” said he. “Just so there are not any misunderstandings, please know that I and my cousin make the decisions about Georgiana’s care. Even if you do not agree with those decisions, I expect you to abide by them. Georgiana is more delicate than your sisters, certainly, and would never be allowed to parade about unsupervised as they often are.”
Elizabeth’s hand flew to her cheek as if he had slapped her with his hand instead of with his words.
“I assure you, sir, that it was not the care of your sister that I laughed about, but rather the lack of care that my own have received,” she said.
Darcy instantly understood the magnitude of the mistake that he had made. Any goodwill that he had developed with his new bride had disappeared with one haughty statement, and he was unsure how to make it right. He leaned forward and took her hand.
“I apologize for my rush to judgment, Elizabeth. Please know that I am a difficult man, and set in my ways, but I will try my best to be a good husband to you.”
Elizabeth did not immediately respond. Darcy was unconsciously rubbing his thumb over the knuckles of her hand and she could not focus on anything but that sensation. Her skin seemed to prickle where he touched her. She realized he was staring at her and spoke.
“I thank you for your apology. It may take some time before we are able to understand one another.”
Darcy nodded his head in agreement and then realized what his traitorous thumb was doing, running itself over her knuckles. Elizabeth did not seem to be in any hurry for him to stop, but at the same time he did not wish to make her uncomfortable if she was merely tolerating the touch for his benefit.
Darcy released her hand and settled back into his own seat again, his eyes focused outside the carriage. When he looked back, Elizabeth was staring intently at him with a look of curiosity on her face. He normally did not like people looking at him closely, but he discovered that he did not mind when Elizabeth did it. There were a great many things that would bother him if anyone but she did them.
They returned to silence after this conversation, but it felt different to Elizabeth than the previous silence. Before, the quiet had been awkward; now, however, it felt as though the air was more charged. She was on her guard with Darcy; she had been shocked at how quickly he had retreated into being the Darcy she met for the first time at the assembly house dance. That was certainly someone to whom Elizabeth had no interest in being married. However, the contrition he had shown soothed her worries a bit, and seemed more in character with the man who had married her to no obvious benefit of his own.
But still—which was the real Mr. Darcy? To whom was she wed? And for that matter, what of the tingling sensations that prickled under her skin when they touched? She did not have the answer to a single of these questions. She once again looked out the window at the countryside. This marriage might turn out to be much more complicated than she had originally hoped.
Finally, the carriage arrived at Darcy’s London house. Elizabeth had to try hard not to gasp. It was lovely white stone, and, like the houses that surrounded it, impressively large. She counted twelve windows facing out towards the street, each one gleaming in the sun. Two columns on either side of the large front door held up a pediment. Elizabeth, who was used to the houses in Cheapside where her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner lived, was overwhelmed by the grandeur of Grosvenor Street.
Darcy enjoyed seeing Elizabeth’s reaction to one of her new homes. To him, this was simply a house, but he could see her awe. It made him look forward, even more, to when she got her first glimpse of Pemberley.
Georgiana met them at the door.
“Brother!” she cried, and embraced him. “And you have brought me a sister as well!”
“Georgiana, this is my wife, Elizabeth.”
They curtsied to one another.
“Oh, I am so delighted to meet you!” said Georgiana. “My brother has told me so much of you I feel as if I know you already.”
Elizabeth glanced at Darcy, wondering when he had made these statements, as he and Georgiana had not seen each other for some time. Did he discuss her in letters that he had sent?
“It is lovely to meet you, as well,” said Elizabeth. She found she liked Georgiana right away, and she was relieved to discover that Miss Darcy bore no resemblance whatsoever to Miss Bingley.
“We have so much to talk about,” said Georgiana, taking Elizabeth’s hand. “You must tell me all about your family.”
Darcy smiled indulgently at Georgiana. “You will have time to get to know one another. However, I think that Elizabeth might need to rest after our trip.”
“Yes, of course, how careless of me,” said Georgiana. “I have had your rooms made up for you. I will show you to them, and you can see if there is anything else that you will need.”
Elizabeth allowed herself to be pulled along by Georgiana. She felt more comfortable than she had since before she began her journey. It was a relief to find how much she instantly liked Georgiana; it was most comforting to have a friend.
The following day, Elizabeth saw someone else that she considered a friend. Darcy and Elizabeth were listening to Georgiana play the piano forte when a visitor was announced: Mr. Bingley.
Darcy was up and across the floor almost as soon as Bingley was announced. “Bingley! How good to see you.”
“It seems that much has happened since I left,” said Bingley, smiling at Elizabeth. “It is such a pleasure to see you, Mrs. Darcy.”
She returned his smile. “And you, Mr. Bingley.”
“I had hoped that you might join me at Netherfield,” Darcy said, trying to keep his tone light.
“And I would have, had I known what happened,” said Bingley. “Mrs. Darcy, I am so very sorry for your loss. I was shocked when I learned of it yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” said Darcy. “But I asked Caroline to write to you weeks ago to let you know the reason I would be staying at Netherfield.”
“Caroline was distraught when she realized that she had forgotten to inform me,” said Bingley. “She told me of the situation yesterday.”
Darcy was not as sure as his friend that it had been a mistake, and he silently cursed himself for relying on Caroline to relay such important information.
“But all of that is past now, and I am so very delighted for the two of you,” said Bingley. “Darcy would have had a difficult time finding a more agreeable or lovely wife than you, Mrs. Darcy.”
Elizabeth could think of some people who might disagree with Mr. Bingley, but she kept her tongue.
“You must come dine with us,” said Mr. Bingley. “Louisa and Mr. Hurst are on holiday, but Caroline would be delighted to see all of you.”
It was all that Elizabeth could do to maintain her countenance at this statement. She knew full well that she was the last person that Caroline Bingley wanted to see; indeed, Elizabeth suspected that Miss Bingley may have intentionally neglected to send word of Mr. Bennet’s death to Mr. Bingley, in an attempt to prevent him from traveling to Jane. Miss Bingley was worried about her brother wedding a Bennet; instead, Mr. Darcy had. Elizabeth knew that any dislike that Miss Bingley held for her had likely bloomed into animosity.
“We would be delighted to accept your kind invitation,” said Darcy.
“Shall we say tomorrow evening?” asked Bingley.
“Certainly. We will look forward to seeing you and Miss Bingley tomorrow.”
With that, Mr. Bingley smiled, bowed, and took his leave.