Thursday’s 300: Lilacs & Lavender, Chapter 3

Welcome back to my blog! <3

This post is brought to you by Lilacs & Lavender. (affiliate link … clicking is free but may result in me earning a few pennies)

Here is chapter 3.

If you missed chapter 1, you can find it here.

Chapter 2 is here.

Did you know that Patreon patrons who pledge $2 per month or more get to read these posts an entire week early? Also, patrons at all levels get to read my current work-in-progress as I write it.

Enjoy!

Chapter 3

While Darcy was greeting her party and ruminating on her, Elizabeth’s thoughts were equally full of him. She had forgotten how tall he was, and how handsome. He was very solemn as he greeted the party, yet his eyes almost caressed her, softening just the smallest bit when he looked upon her. He was gracious in his greeting to her aunt and uncle. That was a relief, though as she thought on it, Mr. Bingley’s fortune was made in trade and the two were good friends. She had no real reason to think he would not have been kind and welcoming other than what Miss Bingley said many months ago. But was it truly fair to judge him by the same standard when he was not the person to espouse such notions? He was even kind to Sir William, and she knew that man sorely tried Mr. Darcy’s nerves.

Elizabeth’s heart beat faster than normal to be so near to him. Still, she must not let herself get carried away. He likely never saw her as more than an acquaintance, and she knew now that he was not the monster Mr. Wickham made him out to be. She also recognized he had singled her out as a dance partner, and yet there were still the harsh words he had said the first time they met that she was not handsome. She had no reason to suppose he had changed his opinion. She must guard her heart, but oh, how she wished she did not have to do so! She turned her attention back to the conversation that continued around her.

“Mr. Bingley,” Jane began, having made a decision just moments before to speak with him. “Did your intended not come with you?” She wanted to hear from his own lips about Miss Darcy so she could put her heartache behind her and move on with her life. This sort of behavior was entirely too bold for her usually, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

Mr. Bingley looked confused, and his next words betrayed that feeling. “My intended? I am not engaged. I am not even courting anyone. Why would you think I was?”

“Oh, I am sorry, sir. In her letter, Miss Bingley seemed quite certain you and Miss Darcy would soon announce an understanding.” Jane’s heart was beating so fast she was sure everyone could hear it.

“My sister told you this?” Bingley looked at Mr. Hurst, who shook his head. “Why am I not surprised? My sister was wrong, Miss Bennet. Miss Darcy is not yet sixteen, and has not even had her coming out. She is much too young for me. My eye is drawn to a more mature woman to court, if she will have me.”

Jane saw Mr. Bingley’s intense look and blushed. “I am sure all you need do is ask, and she would accept you.”

“I certainly hope so, Miss Bennet. May I escort you to Darcy’s box?” Holding out his arm to Jane, he saw his sister join them with a look of dismay on her face. His glare told her that he had something to discuss with her later.

Caroline Bingley was not happy to see the Bennets cozying up to her brother and Mr. Darcy. She could tell by the look on Charles’ face that one of them related something to him that she had said. She mentally squirmed. He did control her dowry and her pin money, and he had been known in the past to curtail her spending when he did not like her behavior. He was much like their father that way. She was not looking forward to the conversation they would have later. However, she had been able to persuade him to her way of thinking in the past, so perhaps she could this time, as well.

Caroline turned to Mr. Darcy, expecting him to offer his arm to escort her as they made their way to his box. She was surprised to see he had already offered it to Miss Elizabeth. Caroline was furious. She hated Eliza Bennet, because Eliza took Mr. Darcy’s attention away from her. How was she to become Mrs. Darcy when other ladies drew him away? She examined Elizabeth with a critical eye. Her gown, while it fit well, was at least a year out of style. The lilac color was not one Caroline favored, and so she wrinkled her nose at it. Really, she thought, the girl has no taste. Then there were those ridiculous flowers in her hair. Did she not know that feathers were in style? What kind of blooms were they, anyway? She sniffed, raising her nose as she put her hand on Hurst’s other arm and began walking toward the stairs.

As the party began ascending the stairs, Darcy leaned down to the lady on his arm. “Miss Elizabeth, how have you been?”

She smiled up at him, “Well, sir. Yourself?”

“I have been well for the most part. Only a little lonely.”

She looked at him with her brows raised in surprise. “Lonely? How is that possible?”

Darcy turned that intense look upon her once more. “Yes, lonely. I have missed the company of a certain charming young lady who likes to challenge me at every turn.”

Elizabeth’s heart stopped for a moment before thumping loudly once again. She swallowed, almost afraid to hear the response to her question. “And, who would this charming young lady be?”

She had not thought it possible, but his eyes became even more intense as he answered her. “You, Miss Elizabeth.” He paused as she gasped. “How long will you be in town? I should like to call on you, if I may.”

“Oh, Mr. Darcy, I would like that very much, but we are to leave in the morning for Kent. We are visiting my friend Charlotte and her new husband, my cousin Mr. Collins, for a few weeks.”

Darcy’s disappointment was clear. However, all was not lost. As he recalled, her cousin Collins was rector for his aunt, Lady Catherine. As Easter was coming soon, he would be going to Kent himself before long. They could spend time together there, and perhaps leave as an engaged couple.

“Miss Elizabeth …” He spoke quickly, as they were approaching his box, and opportunity for private conversation would be limited. “I had thought to wait to ask you this, but in light of your trip tomorrow, I will ask now. Would you agree to a courtship with me? I know it is unusual to do so after so short an acquaintance as ours, but with you leaving in the morning, I will have no opportunity to call on you while you are here with your family. I will be in Kent soon, as well, visiting my aunt, and if we are courting it will be easier for us to spend time together. I have for months thought of you as the handsomest woman of my acquaintance, and I very much admire your spirit and intelligence. I should like us to get to know each other better; I assure you that my intentions are honorable.”

Elizabeth was so astonished – shocked even – and delighted, that at first she could not think. This was a dream come true! Her eyes filled up with tears that she prayed would not overflow. “Yes, Mr. Darcy; I would like that very much. Thank you.” Her response was heartfelt.

For Darcy, seeing the shock and joy in her eyes was the answer to his every hope to this point. Her happiness was plain to see, and he responded by allowing her to see his own. “Thank you, Miss Elizabeth. You have made me a very happy man.” He squeezed her hand as he entered the box. He helped her to sit, then quietly asked Mr. Gardiner for a word in the hall.

When the two men came back in, her uncle squeezed Elizabeth’s shoulder before moving to sit next to his wife. Mrs. Gardiner looked at him, a question in her eyes, and he leaned over to whisper the news to her.

Darcy took the seat beside Miss Elizabeth. He leaned close and whispered, “Your uncle gave his permission, but I still must ask your father. I am due to come to Rosings in two weeks. We can court there, but it must be done quietly, as my aunt will be opposed. She has wanted me to marry my cousin Anne for years, but neither Anne nor I have desired it.”

Elizabeth nodded. From what she had gathered of Lady Catherine’s personality from her cousin, she was not surprised that Darcy was hesitant to openly call on her in a place where his aunt had so much influence.

“You are aware of my fondness for walks?” She watched Darcy nod. “Are there places at Hunsford where I may continue that practice?”

Darcy grinned at her. Of course, his wise and wonderful Elizabeth would think of a perfect way to spend time together without his overbearing aunt knowing. “Indeed there are. We could meet on one of the paths in the mornings, and I will visit as often as I can at the parsonage.”

Elizabeth smiled back as the play began. She wished she could share her joy with the entire theater, but without her father’s sanction on the courtship, that was not yet possible. She did her best to focus on the actors on the stage. Her hands were on the bench on either side of her, under the edges of her skirt. Soon, however, she felt her right hand covered by the large warm one of the man beside her as Darcy moved his over hers. She turned hers over and their hands clasped together. They stayed that way the entire evening, each silently enjoying the contact. Frequently, their eyes strayed from the production to each other.

Just before the end, Elizabeth covertly pulled some of the lilacs out of her hair and pressed them into his hand. His eyes thanked her as he carefully put them in his waistcoat pocket. He knew flowers had meanings, but was not familiar with the particulars of this one. He planned to remedy that deficiency in his education that night, before he went to bed. Soon, he would go to visit Mr. Bennet and gain his permission. The next two weeks could not go by fast enough to suit Mr. Darcy!

~~~***~~~

That evening, Darcy made a trip to his library to look for a book that would tell him the meanings of flowers. While not as extensive as the one at Pemberley, the library at Darcy House was large, filled with books on almost any topic one could want. Consulting the catalog his father had commissioned, Darcy made note of two or three volumes that might contain the information he needed. Pulling the first one off the shelf, he quickly leafed through it, finding, to his delight, that it was exactly the book he required. Sitting down on a sofa with the book in hand, Darcy read with delight the meaning behind lilacs.

Purple lilacs stand for the first emotions of love, he thought, grinning. She loves me!

Darcy did not know how he was to sleep tonight with this new insight. The knowledge that Miss Elizabeth shared his affection left him too full of excitement. He was free now to indulge and express his own sentiments. His future appeared brighter than it had before. It seemed as though all of his dreams since his time at Netherfield were coming true.

~~~***~~~

Few of the residents of the Bingley townhouse a few streets over expected to sleep anytime soon. No sooner had the family arrived home than Mr. Bingley, who had remained silent the entire ride home from the theater, with his eyes fixed on the darkness of the window, had demanded a family conference in the drawing room. Once there, he made it clear to his sisters that he was aware of the deceptions played upon him and Miss Bennet. Caroline and Louisa stammered and sputtered, trying to explain themselves, but he was having none of it.

“What were you thinking?” Bingley paced angrily in front of the sofa on which his siblings sat. “Not only did you lie to me, you lied to one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met! She offered you her friendship, asking nothing in return, and you lied to her and cut off the friendship. You have treated her abominably! If I had not spoken to her this evening, and did not know without a shadow of a doubt that she cares for me, I would be afraid that she would not have me. Why did you do it?” Bingley stopped and glared at them while he awaited their explanation.

Caroline spoke up. “We saved you from an imprudent connection. I fail to see what the problem here is. She is beneath you …”

“Enough!” roared Bingley, his countenance red with his rage. “In case you had not noticed before, she is a gentleman’s daughter.  You are not, nor am I a gentleman’s son. Marriage to her would be a step up for me.”

Louisa spoke next. “But her family …”

“Are wonderful people. They are exuberant, yes, but I would not be marrying her family. And before you say anything else …” He held up his hand as Caroline and Louisa opened their mouths to speak. “I do intend to marry her if she will have me. I am angrier with you about your treatment of Miss Bennet than your treatment of your own brother, but I am also hurt that you would use deception to separate me from someone I love. Sisters who cared would not do such a thing.”

At this they had the grace to look away in shame, though that did not stop them from trying again.

“Really, Charles …” began Caroline just as Louisa started to say, “But …”

At this point, Mr. Hurst intervened. “That will be all, Louisa.” He stood up to look at his gaping wife, who was not used to her husband saying much of anything to her that was not related to his meals, his sport, or his port. “I have not the authority to stop Caroline, but I do over you. It was wrong of you to lie, and you know it. The time has come for you to discontinue allowing your sister to sway you into doing and saying things you should not. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is time I stopped permitting you. You will apologize to your brother and to Miss Bennet the next time you see her. Do you understand?”

Louisa nodded. While she was not sure she liked being spoken to in that manner, she felt a stirring of something inside at the sound of his tone of voice. He had never before been so firm with her; he had always permitted her to follow her sister and had never made demands on her. She had spent most of their marriage wishing he was not so weak. Now, however, something in him seemed to have suddenly changed. He had spoken to her with a tone of command that she felt herself responding to. Perhaps allowing him to exert his role as head of their household, as the husbands of her friends did in theirs, might be a good thing. She was willing to find out, she decided, and when he beckoned her to join him to go up to their rooms, she quickly rose to comply.

Caroline watched this transpire with a cynical twist to her lips. She did not understand her sister’s easy compliance with her worthless husband. She would certainly never let Mr. Darcy treat her in such a way once they married. Her still enraged brother interrupted her thoughts.

“Caroline, I am done with you – with both of you. That you would betray me is inconceivable, and yet, you have. Words cannot convey the depth of my anger. I will be moving out. You will stay here with the Hursts. I expect you to marry this season, and I do not mean to Darcy. You will attend every ball and dinner you are invited to and you will be encouraging to possible suitors. You will hopefully get an offer of marriage, and you will accept it. I do not care who he is or from what level of society. If you do not marry this season, I will set you up with your own establishment and you will live alone.” Once again, Bingley was pacing angrily back and forth in front of her, speaking in an uncharacteristically loud voice. Raising his hand and pointing toward the door, he finished with, “I am done with you. Go to bed; get out of my sight before I say something I will truly regret.”

Having never seen him in such a state, his sister decided to try to talk sense into him another day. Silently she rose and did as he bid.

To be continued …

~~~***~~~

 

Amazon     NOOK     KOBO     Apple

Buy direct from Zoe    Gumroad

Join my mailing list

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.