Elizabeth stayed standing in front of the painting while her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, followed the housekeeper to another room. With her head tilted up, she studied the portrait of Mr. Darcy. It was a good likeness of the man himself, as she had informed the housekeeper. Again, she was thankful that they had arrived the day they had, for the housekeeper expected Mr. Darcy with a large party from London.
She turned away and caught up with the Gardiners in the next room. Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper of Pemberley, brought their attention to a new piano just arrived from London as a gift for Mr. Darcy’s sister. Elizabeth raised her eyebrows, as a piano that large and made by that company could only be purchased by the wealthy. She refused to let herself admire the piano, for she knew it would be difficult for her to play their small, worn piano afterwards at Longbourn without envy.
Elizabeth wandered over to the large windows facing the pond. As she gazed at the entire view, she thought of the estate’s owner and his proposal to her in the Hunsford Parsonage. “Of all this, I could have been mistress.”
She felt a small pang of regret but assured herself that Mr. Darcy’s pride and snobbery were still probably unbearable, though she did know him better for having read his letter handed to her at Rosings. Elizabeth had read the letter so much that she could recite it from heart if she wished, but she did not, for she was still embarrassed at the horrible things she had said to him.
“Lizzy, we are going to the next room.”
Elizabeth turned with a pleasant smile and walked next to Mrs. Gardiner as they continued their tour of the grandest home in Derbyshire. The tour ended where it had begun, at the entrance across from the pond she had spied from inside the house. She walked down to the pond and picked up a rock near the edge. When she stood up again, she blanched.
Mr. Darcy walked out from around a corner of Pemberley.
She dropped her rock, quickly looked around to find her aunt and uncle, and walked briskly in their direction. Elizabeth hoped they were far enough away that he had not seen them. As she reached the Gardiners, she checked Mr. Darcy’s location and, to her horror, found him only about twenty yards away. Close enough for Mr. Darcy to determine who she was, as he stood stock still staring at her.
This had to be the most mortifying day of her life. What must he think of her, coming here to tour his house?
Mr. Darcy started and walked to their party.
Elizabeth looked down, then at the Gardiners, then back at Mr. Darcy while clenching the sides of her dress.
“Miss Bennet, …I –”
“I did not expect to see you here, sir.” Her countenance had to be as bright as a red apple.
“I returned a day early. How are your parent’s health?”
Elizabeth blinked. “They are well, thank you, sir.”
“Would you do me the honor of introducing me to your friends?”
Wouldn’t he be surprised when he found out this well behaved couple were related to her?
“Mr. and Mrs. Edward Gardiner, Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Gardiner is my aunt.” She studied him to not miss his reaction, but he was perfectly amiable, the perfect gentleman.
“Delighted to make your acquaintance. You are staying in Lambton?”
“Yes, sir,” said Mrs. Gardiner. “I grew up there as a girl.”
Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Gardiner reminisced about Lambton and the large tree by the smithy that they both used to play on. Elizabeth stared nonplussed at this extraordinary change in his behavior.
He even asked them for their opinions of his estate, which the Gardiners answered.
“You are not displeased with Pemberley?” Mr. Darcy looked at Elizabeth.
What could she say other than it was magnificent? But how embarrassing to be caught admiring the house of the man she had rejected after berating him based on falsehoods.
“No, not at all.”
Mr. Darcy smiled. “Then you approve of it?”
“Yes, very much. There are few who would not approve.”
“But your good opinion is rarely bestowed and therefore worth more.”
Elizabeth felt her cheeks heat. Did he not dislike her? His behavior was so removed from what she expected, that she knew not what to think.
As they walked down to the pond following Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth clenched her hands and turned to her aunt.
“We should not have come.”
She kept her eyes averted, hoping her aunt would not be able to deduce why her niece was so embarrassed. “We should leave—”
Mr. Darcy turned and walked the few yards to join them.
“Would you like to view the formal gardens? They have recently been replanted and are at their best for viewing.” He stared directly at Elizabeth.
“Yes, that would be delightful.” Said Mrs. Gardiner.
Elizabeth closed her eyes in dismay. When would this embarrassing ordeal be over?
“Would you walk with me, Miss Bennet?”
They soon outstripped her aunt and uncle, which gave her the opportunity she needed. “I must apologize. We had been assured that you were not in residence, otherwise we never would have come. I am—”
Mr. Darcy placed his hand on her arm. “You have no need to apologize. I am glad, quite glad to see you again.” He trailed his hand slowly down her arm, squeezing her hand before he let go.
Elizabeth stared at him. He looked the same in appearance, but his behavior was so changed.
They continued to walk down the side of Pemberley to the back of the house while Mr. Darcy walked closer than was proper. Their hands kept touching, so Elizabeth held her hands in front of her. But then Mr. Darcy placed his hand on the back of her arm and slowly moved it until he held her elbow while he pointed to a statue in the gardens.
She knew not what to think. Had he turned into a rake?
* * *
Mr. Darcy was not going to have the woman completely unaware of his admiration of her again. It was due to the greatest luck that they had crossed paths this day. He had, once he had gotten over his anger, spent the time since that disastrous proposal employed in improving himself. He had never forgotten what Elizabeth had said to him.
He stepped close and turned to point out a topiary at the nearest edge of the garden. Mr. Darcy also used this opportunity to smell her unique scent, one that made his breathing quicken in delight. He brushed her arm with his chest, then led her closer to the gardens with his hand at her elbow. She would not miss his intentions this time.
“Yes, it is lovely. Your gardener has much skill to arrange the plants and flowers of such differing colors into such a pleasing arrangement.” Elizabeth glanced at him and then quickly looked away again.
She was skittish around him, which was to be expected when they had not seen each other for some time. And after how they had parted on less than pleasant terms.
“These gardens were designed by Capability Brown. I did not have any preference, but my sister Georgiana chose the colors.”
Elizabeth turned to him with a smile, which made her eyes light up and transformed her countenance into one that stole his breath. But her aunt and uncle approached, so he dragged his eyes away from Elizabeth.
“You may walk down the main path of the gardens,” said Mr. Darcy, “and find benches placed to enjoy the flower arrangements.”
“That is very thoughtful, thank you,” Mr. Gardiner stated, “but we must go now, as we have an engagement with friends of my wife in Lambton.”
Mr. Darcy swallowed a pang of fear and disappointment.
“May I call upon you tomorrow?” He turned to Elizabeth as he asked and saw her surprise and confusion.
“Why yes, you may.”
They walked back to the carriage as he asked Elizabeth about the rest of their travels through Derbyshire. While she spoke, he studied her countenance, the freckles on her face, the way her curls escaped her bonnet.
Mr. Darcy helped her aunt into the carriage and then Elizabeth. As they pulled away, he stood on the driveway and watched until he could not see the carriage anymore. Then he turned and walked up the steps into Pemberley.
He had never thought he would see her again unless he travelled back to Hertfordshire. And that would never have happened, as it would negate his and Mr. Bingley’s sisters’ efforts to keep Miss Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley apart. Mr. Darcy had felt guilt as Elizabeth had informed him, on that horrible day, that he had misjudged her sister and had forever ruined Miss Bennet’s happiness.
Mr. Darcy pursed his lips as he walked through the grand house to his study. He had not yet made amends on that front, and he felt he needed to do that before he could ascertain what Elizabeth’s feelings were for him.
But by Jove, he was going to make sure she knew his feelings for her before she left Derbyshire. Hopefully she would not leave the area before he had convinced her of his changed behavior and his admiration of her.
The next day, at the earliest hour he could call, Mr. Darcy rode to Lambton. He could have waited for the party from London to arrive, and he probably should have, since Mr. Bingley was part of the party. When he learned that Elizabeth, Jane’s sister, was in Lambton, Mr. Bingley would no doubt want to call upon her immediately. But Mr. Darcy was selfish for his own happiness, his own desire to see Elizabeth again without any distractions. He knew Mr. Bingley could converse much more easily than he, and he did not want Elizabeth and his friend to have a conversation while he stood there like a nodcock.
Mr. Darcy enjoyed the ride to Lambton, as he relished riding through the countryside. He was not a city man, as he desired to be in the country whenever he was in London. He was sure Elizabeth loved the pleasant country life as much as he did.
He pulled up his horse in front of the Lambton Inn and handed the reins off to a stable hand. Mr. Darcy walked inside whence the staff greeted him.
“Please let Miss Bennet know that Mr. Darcy is here to call upon her.”
Elizabeth stayed standing in front of the painting while her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, followed the housekeeper to another room. With her head tilted up, she studied the painting of Mr. Darcy and it was a good likeness of the man himself as she had informed the housekeeper. Again she was thankful that they had arrived the day they had, for the housekeeper expected Mr. Darcy with a large party form London.
The tapping at her room’s door had Elizabeth frowning. This was not the usual time for the inn’s maid. She called out for them to enter. “Pardon me Miss Bennet, but there is a gentleman and Mr. Darcy down in the sitting room here to call upon you.” The maid curtsied and closed the door. Elizabeth sat with mouth agape staring at the closed door. Mr. Darcy? Here at Lambton Inn? To call upon her?
Demi is a mother of a twentysomething woman, loves nature and would love to read books in a hammock forever. She enjoys painting, calligraphy, reading, antique hunting, cross stitch and coloring.
She loves Regency romance as it is a wonderful escape back to beautiful dresses, servants to clean everything, men with manners and of course tea time with cucumber sandwiches and the silver tea service set.