Meryton, located roughly one hundred fifty miles to the south of Pemberley in Derbyshire and nestled in the pastoral valleys of Hertfordshire, was experiencing an atypical cold spell for this winter of 1817. Snow had not yet fallen and it was warmer than the northern counties, but beyond a doubt, winter had descended with a vengeance not seen in years. Whatever the facts, weather or otherwise, none of the inhabitants of the modest manor known as Longbourn took note. All energies were either focused on preparations for the trip to Pemberley or avoiding said preparations. Mrs. Bennet had been in a barely controlled dither since her springtime trip to Darcy House in London. She was further incited by Kitty's gushing descriptions of Pemberley, after her daughter's return from visiting there in August. Despite her incessant declarations to anyone listening of the great wealth that her second daughter married into, the woman of humble means had no true concept of such a life. The subdued opulence of Darcy House had amazed her, and based on the picture painted by Kitty, Pemberley promised to be vastly superior. Frankly, she was overwhelmed at the concept and her infamous nerves were on high alert-for justifiable reasons this time.
Between Mary's wedding planning, the Christmas vacation arrangements, and his wife's histrionics, Mr. Bennet found himself retreating to the solitude of his study more and more to evade the frenzy. He merely wanted to see his favored daughter and new grandson, enjoy the pleasure of good company, and lose himself in the library. Inconsequentials, such as fashionable clothing and haircuts, were of no interest.
Transportation to Derbyshire had not actually occurred to him as an issue. His plan was simply to utilize the landau, and if five persons proved a bit snug, all better to maintain warmth! The arrival of the luxurious Darcy coach two days before their scheduled departure, with an obviously carefully worded letter from Lizzy, explaining its purpose with her natural humor, brought a smile to his face. The rationale was of no real importance to the practical gentleman. He instantly recognized the advantage and was pleased, not only for the reasons delineated by his darling daughter, but also for the comfort afforded his old bones. It never crossed his mind to be offended. Besides, Mrs. Bennet's theatrics would have effectively smothered any sensations of insult had they come to mind.
"Such a fine, fine carriage it is!" she gushed. "What a marvelous gentleman he is to be sure! Married our Lizzy when surely no one else would likely have her, always far too independent and sharp-tongued for her own good. Truly a wondrous gentleman, so generous and kind, is he not Mr. Daniels?"
Mr. Daniels's agreeing reply, the hundredth or so such offered since departing Longbourn, was lost in the continuing rambles of his future mother-in-law. Mary's gentle smile and soft eyes met his, giving the flummoxed young man the inner strength necessary to deal with the situation. His weekly visits to Mary since her departure from London had given him the opportunity to become acquainted with his soon-to-be family. As Darcy before him, Mr. Daniels was baffled at how the demure, proper young woman who was his fiancée had arisen from such a family. Mr. Bennet was quieter than his wife, but with a clever wit and penetrating gaze not possessed by his middle daughter. In all ways, Mary was an enigma in the Bennet clan, far more than Lizzy ever had been.
Joshua Daniels counted himself a fortunate man indeed, the antics of the Bennets notwithstanding. His betrothed was a steady young lady, prim, stoic, and fairly humorless; but intelligent, kind, and warm. Since these were character traits identical to Mr. Daniels, the two were well matched. Both approached their union with logic and sensibleness, emotion only a dim part of the decision initially. That there was a physical attraction was obvious to them both, but to say it was a raging passion would be erroneous. Their innocent and balanced natures did not lend well to consideration of such things. However, as the long weeks of their engagement unfolded, both began to sense the stirrings of something stronger; emotions that simmered far under the skin as they gradually took tender liberties with chaste kisses and hand touching. This excursion to Pemberley, as painful as it was for the decorous solicitor to reside as a guest in a client's home, would be an eye-opener. The extended period of time the couple would spend together, often inadvertently alone as people came and went about the enormous manor, as well as witnessing the blatant if constrained demonstrations of affection between their hosts, would enlighten them to the greater riches possibly uncovered in a passionate marriage. Without giving too much away, it is safe to conclude that Mary and Joshua would have a fulfilling marriage in all ways.
This, of course, was in the future. For now, they all persevered for the ride. It rained and snowed intermittently as they traveled, but the sturdily built coach, with thick walls, window shades, rugs, and compartments for heated bricks, made for a fairly comfortable journey. By the afternoon of the second day, as they rumbled through Matlock, the clouds broke and sleety rains ceased. The sun peeked through the gaps, offering no warmth of any significance, but casting eye-blinding tendrils of illumination over the glittering snow blanketing the fields.
It was Kitty who recognized the hamlet of Lambton, familiar from afternoon shopping trips with Georgiana. "Oh! This is Lambton, Papa. It means we are very close! Just a few miles and across the river is Pemberley!" Lizzy had instructed Mr. Anders to approach from the north rather than the slightly shorter southern avenue veering from Beeley. She would never forget her initial view of Pemberley, as seen from the bridge crossing the River Derwent: the mansion sitting proudly amid the gardens and fountains, ringed to the rear by vast forests, the main façade a breathtaking vision of Darcy heritage and prestige.
The coachman slowed on the bridge, allowing the occupants to gaze lingeringly as well as permitting word of their arrival to reach Mr. Darcy from the unseen sentry he knew was waiting. By the time the carriage drove under the massive stone and vine swathed archway and halted before the portico, the Bennets and Mr. Daniels were silent with awe.
Darcy stood under the entry, commanding and formal, with Dr. George Darcy to his left, wearing a broad, welcoming grin. Georgiana, hair regally arranged and dressed in a lovely gown of pale blue velvet, stood to his right. Mary and Kitty enthusiastically greeted Georgiana, Darcy's welcoming speech lost in the flurry.
"Mrs. Bennet, how utterly delightful it is to see you again." George approached the spellbound woman, bowing with a roguish flair and offering his arm. "If I may be so bold? I am quite certain there is a lovely young lady lurking in the foyer with an incredibly cute baby in her arms. I had the honor of delivering this infant you know, first to lay eyes on his beauty, as it were. Of course, the real work was accomplished by your daughter, William having some input here and there..."
His voice trailed off as he led the bemused woman into the painted foyer. Darcy looked at Mr. Bennet, smiling faintly at the silently laughing older gentleman. "Mr. Daniels, welcome to Pemberley. Please, gentlemen, let us retire to the parlor where it is warm and refreshments are waiting. I should warn you, Mr. Daniels," he said with a chuckle as the three entered the house, "it is likely you shall discover attention from your fiancée slowly forthcoming for a day or two until female conversation is exhausted. Word of wisdom from an experienced husband given free of charge."