The weddings are over, the saga begins.
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Excerpt from the Prologue to The Pemberley Chronicles
THE WEDDINGS ARE OVER. There are rose petals everywhere. Jane and Elizabeth Bennet have been married to Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy on a shining Autumn day, and everyone is smiling with the joy of sharing in their happiness.
"They looked more beautiful than princesses," said the little maids, Caroline and Emily Gardiner, who with Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy had assisted the brides.
"Could anyone have looked happier than Lizzie?" asked her aunt. "Not unless you looked across at Jane, who seemed as if she was all lit up like a candle," said Colonel Fitzwilliam. Both bridegrooms looked extremely well. Mr Bingley was the favourite, of course, being universally charming. But even those who had reservations about Mr Darcy, thinking him proud and reserved when he first came to Netherfield, could not deny how well he looked: tall and very handsome, his countenance suffused with delight as he and Elizabeth stepped out into the sunlight.
Sir William Lucas said over and over that we were losing the brightest jewels in the county and Mr Darcy was a real dark horse, because no one had guessed he was in love with Lizzie, whereas everyone knew, he said, from the very first evening they met, that Mr Bingley had lost his heart to Jane. Sir William even claimed credit for the match, having been the first to call on Mr Bingley and invite him and his party to Meryton. He was boasting of his success to Mr and Mrs Gardiner, who knew a good deal more of these matters, being particular friends of both Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, but they just smiled and let him chatter on.
Later, on the way home they would comment that, had he known it was at the reception at Lucas Lodge that Mr Darcy had first noticed Lizzie's beauty and found himself wanting to know her better, Sir William might have become quite impossibly conceited about his role in their marriage, too.
Jane and Charles Bingley are gone to London, where Charles wants to show off his beautiful wife, while Lizzie and Darcy have left for Oxford en route to the estates on the borders of Cheshire and Wales that are part of Darcy's family inheritance. Mrs Gardiner, who helped Lizzie and Jane pack for their journeys, says Lizzie is longing to see Wales, never having visited the area before. They are all to meet in London some six weeks hence to dine with the Gardiners.
The servants gathered up the debris on the lawn, and the guests began to leave. Some of them seemed more reluctant to go than others. Mr Bennet looked as if he would like them to be gone, but Mrs Bennet would not stop talking, endlessly, to Mrs Long, Aunt Philips, Lady Lucas, and anyone else who would listen, detailing her joy at having her two most beautiful daughters so well married and settled. She was full of news too about Jane and Charles and their journey to London and bemoaned the fact that she knew so little of
Elizabeth and Darcy's plans, except the couple were to be at Pemberley for Christmas. She was still too much in awe of Mr Darcy to ask him outright.
As we were to learn later, while the Bingleys headed for London, Darcy hoped the time and the environment of the lovely border country would give Lizzie and himself a chance to be alone together as they never could, amidst the bustle of friends and families at Longbourn.
They broke journey and spent their first few days at a very pleasing hostelry outside the university town of Oxford. At Oxford, Darcy, a Cambridge man himself, took his wife to meet an old friend, a clergyman, who had spent some time at the Kympton living in Derbyshire prior to returning to continue his theological studies at Oxford. Dr Francis Grantley was two years Darcy's senior, learned and witty with it, not at all sombre and pompous as some clergymen one could name! "Poor Charlotte," Elizabeth sighed for her friend as she recalled with a shudder the silliness of Mr Collins. Dr Grantley was quite another matter, said Elizabeth in her letter to Mrs Gardiner, written before the couple left Oxford:
I am sure, my dear Aunt, that you would like him very much indeed. He is Mr Darcy's dearest friend and they have known one another for many years, since Dr Grantley was assistant to the curate at Kympton, the picturesque little parish we visited in Derbyshire last Summer. We spent all day with him, visiting some of the wonderful libraries and College Chapels, including his own college, St John's, which has a renowned Chapel choir and delightful gardens. Mr Darcy has invited Dr Grantley to return to the living at Kympton, which is now vacant, during his sabbatical and I for one would welcome it; we could do with another gentleman of education and taste at Pemberley!
Elizabeth was interrupted at this point by her husband, who came in to dress for dinner, having given instructions for their journey to Bristol on the following day. In a touching gesture, he had brought her a rose, picked fresh from the garden, taking her by surprise, as he would do often in the future. Recounting the incident to her aunt, Elizabeth confessed she was more pleasured by these unexpected and spontaneous expressions of affection, than by the ritualised courtliness affected by many men in smart society.
She let him read her letter while she completed her preparations. It was the first time she had let anyone other than Jane see any of her letters, and she was conscious of what it signified between them. That he was pleased with what he read, she knew from his smile as he handed it back to her and the warmth with which he embraced her before they left the room to go to dinner. There would be an openness between them that would enhance the intimacy of their marriage, and she was excited by its rich promise for their future together.
Later that night, Elizabeth rose quietly from bed as her husband slept, and finished her letter to Mrs Gardiner:
You will be happy to learn, dear Aunt, that my dear husband approves of my excellent judgement-not only with regard to my appreciation of Dr Grantley but more especially in my love and esteem for himself-as expressed earlier in my letter; both feelings, he assures me, are returned in full measure. I need not say again how very happy we are, but I almost fear that were I not to say it, you may not know how completely certain I am of the correctness of my decision to marry Mr Darcy. I know my dear father had his doubts, but you, I am sure, did not share them. Indeed, in your letter to me after Lydia's dreadful faux pas, relating the part Mr Darcy played in resolving the problems caused by Wickham and Lydia's stupidity, you were most generous in your praise of him, and had I not already realised that I loved him, I would certainly have been persuaded to look again at this paragon! I am so glad, however that I needed no such persuasion; having come to understand how deeply I cared for him, it was good to have your confirmation of his virtues. Since then, every occasion that we have been together, whether alone or in company, has only served to confirm my good opinion of him. Dear Aunt, he is a most generous and honourable gentleman and as I have discovered since our marriage, a truly loving husband.
Thank you again, my dearest Aunt and Uncle, for your part in bringing us together; for persuading me to visit Pemberley on that beautiful morning. We have spoken often of those Summer days in Derbyshire, and Mr Darcy agrees with me they will forever be part of our most precious memories. He sends you his love and best regards.
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