Mr. Darcy's Bride

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Chapter 33

By the evening meal, all of the guests had left Pemberley and only its residents remained. Elizabeth considered her day to have been a success: she had managed both to not be sick and to not speak to her husband any more than was required. She did not know what the next step was; regardless of what he had done, she was still married to him, and she was still carrying his child. Elizabeth reminded herself that he had not done anything that she had not told him to; however, that did not soothe her heart.

“I will take my meal in my room tonight,” Elizabeth said.

“You will not,” her husband replied.

“How dare you tell me what I can and cannot do?” she responded angrily. “As if you have a reason to be upset with me!”

“You are angry with me, and I do not know why. You are not to go to your room until you have told me what you are so upset about.”

“Did you think that I would not know?” she said. “Do you believe me to be that foolish? Darcy, how could you do that in our home?”

Darcy was reaching the limit of his patience. “What is it that you think I have done?” he said in a loud voice.

The two of them suddenly became aware that they were standing in the hallway, where any of the servants could hear them.

“I am going to my room,” Elizabeth said. “If you want to stop me, you will have to restrain me.”

Darcy let her pass, unwilling to cause more of a scene than they already had. He was so frustrated with her that he wanted to shake her, but he knew that would make things much worse than they already were. He told a maid to bring his supper to his study and Mrs. Darcy’s to her rooms, and retreated to the safety of a room where he could be alone.

***

Darcy felt calmer after he had eaten. He hoped that Elizabeth felt better as well, because whatever was happening was not going to last another night. He went to her rooms to speak with her.

He knocked on the door to her sitting room and Stewart answered.

“You are dismissed for the evening, Stewart,” Darcy said.

Stewart looked uncertain, and turned to look in the room.

“You may go, Stewart,” said Elizabeth. “My husband and I need to speak alone.”

Stewart swept out of the room, looking nervous. It gave Darcy some insight into what Elizabeth’s state of mind had been since they last spoke, and it was not a good sign.

He walked in to find Elizabeth already in her nightclothes, sitting on the settee covered with a blanket. He suddenly remembered how recently she had been sick; barely a day had passed.

“Come sit,” she said, indicated the other end of the settee. Darcy obliged her.

“I suppose, more than anything, I feel foolish,” Elizabeth said. She no longer sounded angry, but she did sound extremely tired. “I know that I told you to do it, but I thought that things had changed between us. I was hoping that I, and I alone, would be enough for you.”

Darcy took her hand and kissed it. “Elizabeth, please tell me what crime I have committed,” he said. “I do not have any clue whatsoever.”

She looked at him for a long moment. “I saw the Duchess leaving your room this morning,” she finally said.

Realization finally washed over Darcy. Elizabeth believed that he had taken a mistress.

“Elizabeth, you are mistaken,” he said.

The fire came back into her eyes. “Darcy, I saw her.”

“Yes, you saw her leaving my room after I told her to. She came in and tried to come to my bed, but I would not allow it. I made her leave. That is what you saw. I swear that I did not have a liaison with the Duchess of Worthingham.”

She looked at him suspiciously, and then promptly burst into tears.

Darcy moved closer to her and scooped her into his arms. “I would never,” he whispered. “I would never do that to you.”

This caused Elizabeth to cry harder, practically soaking through his cravat. Suddenly she stopped and looked at him suspiciously.

“If nothing happened, why was your bedroom door locked?”

“It was not,” Darcy said, baffled.

“If it is not, then it should not be an issue for you to go into my bedroom, through your rooms, and back through the sitting room door again,” she said. “Although that will only prove that it is unlocked now, and not that it was unlocked this morning. Still. Try it.”

He gave her an incredulous look, but got up from the settee and headed into her bedroom. He twisted the knob, expecting it to give easily, but discovered that it was, indeed, locked.

He walked back into the sitting room shaking his head. “I do not know how I will prove it, Elizabeth, but I did not lock my door. I would never lock my door against you.”

She looked at him suspiciously for a moment, then her eyes got very wide.

“Oh!” she said. “Oh. Please send for Mrs. Reynolds at once.”

Darcy did not have a single idea what Mrs. Reynolds had to do with this issue, but he dispatched a footman to retrieve her anyway.

Several minutes later, a very confused-looking Mrs. Reynolds knocked on the door. Darcy opened it and bade her to come into the room.

“What is it that you need from me, Mr. Darcy?” she asked.

“It is not I who needs you, but my wife,” he said.

Mrs. Reynolds turned her attention to Elizabeth.

“Mrs. Reynolds, we took on additional staff to prepare for the ball, did we not?”

“We did, ma’am.”

“And were some of those additional staff members chambermaids?”

“Quite a few of them, ma’am. There were so many rooms that had to be made up.”

“Did you have the new staff work on preparing those rooms?”

“No. I thought it would be easier if our existing maids prepared the rooms, as they knew exactly what needed to be done. The new staff worked on the common areas.”

“Did a new maid clean Mr. Darcy’s room?”

Mrs. Reynolds thought about it for a moment. “Yes, I believe that Mr. Darcy’s room was prepared by a new maid.”

“What about my rooms?”

“Well, Stewart insisted that Abigail do those. She said that you would be bothered if everything was not the way that it normally was.”

Elizabeth smiled for the first time that day. “Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds. You may go.”

Mrs. Reynolds looked as confused leaving as she did arriving, but Elizabeth had clearly gotten the information that she wanted. Once the door was closed, she turned to her husband.

“A new chambermaid would not know that those doors always remained open,” she said. “She might have locked it when she cleaned simply as a matter of course. And remember, the night prior to the ball I slept in my own room. The door might have been locked since then, and we would not know.”

Darcy sat down heavily. “So you do believe me?” he said.

“I do,” said Elizabeth. “I am so sorry that it took me this long to do so. But between the door being locked, the Duchess leaving your room, and what Miss Bingley told me…”

Darcy was instantly alert. “What did she tell you?”

“Well,” said Elizabeth, her cheeks reddening a little that she had actually listened to Caroline Bingley, “she said that you and the Duchess had been involved when you were younger.”

Darcy’s clenched his jaw. He should have known that Caroline Bingley had something to do with this.

“We were never involved,” he said. “We did have a flirtation when I was younger, and that is not something I am proud of. However, that is the extent of our relationship.”

“I have been such a fool,” Elizabeth said, hiding her face in her hands. “I am sorry I did not trust you.”

Darcy tipped her chin up and looked in her eyes. “I must admit, with all the pieces together it must have looked very suspicious. But there was never a question of my taking a mistress. I have everything I want in you, Elizabeth.”

This statement led to a new stream of tears. Darcy held her close while she let out the emotions that had been building for the entire day.

“You are exhausted,” he said. “You need to be in bed.”

She was still clinging to his neck, so he scooped her up and carried her to her bed. He got her comfortably under the quilt and turned to leave.

“No. Please stay,” she said, reaching her hand out for him.

As always, there was nothing he could deny her. He removed his shoes, his jacket, and his cravat and laid on the bed next to her. He stroked her hair gently and she began to doze almost immediately.

“I love you, my sweet Elizabeth,” he said.

She was nearly asleep, but she still managed to smile at hearing those words from the man who meant everything to her.

***

Elizabeth woke the next morning feeling better in both mind and body. Darcy was asleep on the bed next to her. She felt a flash of guilt for the accusations she had made the previous day; she should have known that Darcy was not capable of what she thought he had done.

She snuggled into his broad chest, and his eyes opened. He looked down at her and smiled.

“Good morning, my beautiful wife,” he said.

“Good morning, my husband.”

He held her close and she could hear the steady, soothing beat of his heart. She knew that the time was finally right to share her news.

“Darcy,” she said softly.

“Yes, my love?”

“We are going to have a child.”

She felt him start at her words. He sat very still for a moment, holding her tight.

“So you are not ill?” he asked.

“Not in any permanent way,” she said. “Stewart says that sickness like this is the sign of a healthy child.”

“I am to be a father?” he asked quietly.

“You are,” she said.

He pulled her back into his arms again.

“Oh, my Elizabeth, there is no greater gift that you could give me,” he said. She felt that he was trembling just a bit.

“Who would have guessed, at that first assembly in Meryton, that we would be here?” she asked with a smile.

“I was such a fool that night to not see the treasure that was right in front of me. It is a mistake that I never mean to repeat,” he said, pulling her in for a kiss.

And finally, all was right in their world.

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