Thursday’s 300: Lilacs & Lavender, Chapter 7

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I’m still on a roll, I guess, since I’ve not missed a week this month. LOL

Today I present to you chapter 7.

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

Chapter 2 is here. Chapter 3 is here. Chapter 4 is here.

Chapter 5 is here. Chapter 6 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.


Chapter 7

At the Gardiner home, Elizabeth had bathed and dressed in her nightclothes, and was sitting in front of the fire in the room she shared with Jane, drying her hair. She and her favorite sister were sharing everything that had happened in the weeks they had been apart.

“Oh, Lizzy, it is all so romantic! Who would have thought that the reserved Mr. Darcy would have such beautiful words inside him?”

Elizabeth laughed at the dreamy tone of Jane’s voice. “To one who does not know him well, it would be quite the surprise, I’m sure, but having spoken to him almost daily for a month, and learning what was in his heart, I was not at all startled. I was probably too eager to hear his words; I barely waited for him to finish proposing before I accepted.”

Jane laughed along with her younger sister. “I can easily picture that!”

“Enough about me, Jane! Tell me what has happened with you. You seem so much happier than you were when I left.”

With a smile and a blush, Jane looked down at her lap. “Mr. Bingley has been to call. No, that is not entirely honest. Let me share with you from the beginning.”

Taking a deep breath, she began. “The day you left, almost at tea time, Mr. Bingley came to call. He had quite a tale to tell, and it was clear that he was distressed. The night of our theatre visit, when we sat in Mr. Darcy’s box?” She looked up and, seeing Elizabeth’s nod, continued. “That night, after we separated following the performance, Mr. Bingley took his sister into his study and asked her about me, and why she had not told him of my being in town. Eventually, after what I understand to be a spectacular argument, he gleaned from her that not only had I been here for weeks, but that I had visited their house. Oh, Lizzy, his anger, even hours after their confrontation, was frightening to behold.”

Elizabeth got up and sat on the bed next to her sister, reaching for her hand to hold. “And what was the result of this meeting?”

“He said that he did not sleep a wink that night. He was so upset that he had put his trust in her. He said, right in front of Aunt Gardiner, that he had been on the verge of proposing in Hertfordshire and was angry with himself as much as with her, for if he had not listened to her, he would be a happily married man by now. He then apologized for being so faithless and asked if he might formally court me and try to regain my good opinion. Oh, Lizzy, I was so happy!”

Elizabeth squeezed her hand. “I am happy for you! What else happened?”

“At first, I told aunt that I would have gladly accepted his hand, but she helped me to see that such an action would have been too impulsive. I must allow him to court me, and question him, and make sure we are compatible and that he can prove himself steady. He must be allowed to assure me that he will not do something like this again. Now that we are courting, I am enjoying this time. He rode to Longbourn, and received Papa’s permission, of course. And since he returned to London, he has visited every day, and we have gone on outings to museums, parks, and the theater.”

She paused, not sure how to relate the rest to Elizabeth. It was difficult for tender-hearted Jane to imagine doing such a thing to a sister, regardless of said sister’s actions.

“He has removed himself from his family’s townhouse and has been staying at Darcy House. He received permission from Mr. Darcy the day you left for Kent; Miss Darcy has gone to stay with an aunt and uncle and the house was going to be empty, so it was the perfect solution. He said he can no longer trust Miss Bingley, and while he cannot remove her from his protection, he can leave her to his other sister and her husband. He has not said as much, but I got the impression that he blames Mrs. Hurst, as well, for our separation. He insists that his sister marry this season or he will set her up in her own establishment and release her dowry to her. She is of age, and legally, he can do this, it seems.” She looked down at their entwined hands. “He says he does not want her in our house when we marry.” She blushed, “And he says that he will court me for as long as it takes because he does intend to marry me.”

Elizabeth laughed at this. “Well, I would hope so! And, how long do you intend to make him wait? I was so proud of you at the theater that night, showing him how you felt! I wanted to cheer!”

Jane smiled again as her blush deepened. “I felt very uncomfortable, but I needed to know, so I could banish him from my heart completely. I am so glad I did! Who knew it would have such a happy outcome!”

“And now, perhaps, you might hint to him to move matters further along? Would it not be the happiest thing for us to marry together?”

“A double wedding? Oh, how exciting! That is a wonderful idea, but perhaps we should ask Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley if they approve? It would not do to force them into something they did not want.”

Jane looked up at her sister quickly, then back down.  “Of course, Mr. Bingley has not yet proposed. But, perhaps, hearing of his friend’s happiness with you will help him along.”

She looked at Elizabeth out of the corner of her eye with a look on her face that might have passed as a sly smile on anyone less sweet.

With that, the pair began laughing, eventually doubling over with tears streaming down their cheeks. One would begin to calm and look at the other, and they would begin all over again.

Soon their hilarity gave way to tiredness and they climbed into the bed and snuggled together, drifting off to sweet dreams of their beloveds.


The next morning, Darcy was up early. He broke his fast with Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam, the three spending the meal sharing news. He had admitted to Bingley his part in separating him from Miss Bennet, and that he had wrongly believed she did not care for him, the day after the theatre outing. Bingley had been angry, but had been far more forgiving of him that he had been of his sister. In his words, “I should not have listened to either of you, but her deceit in keeping Jane’s presence in London a secret from me runs far deeper than yours in attempting to convince me that she had no feelings for me. You did not know Jane was in London; Caroline did, and she kept it from me. Worse, she insulted the woman I love and to whom she was acting as a friend! What kind of person does that? I certainly do not need that in my life!”

Now that weeks had passed, Bingley was still angry with his sister, and determined to keep a distance between them. Darcy understood his feelings very well. He offered his support unconditionally.

After eating and as soon as he knew the shops would be open, he went out looking for a bouquet of lavender. By the time it was acceptable to call, he had found his flowers and had bought all the shop had. He had the stems wrapped in a wide white ribbon, and held the large bunch very carefully as he exited the shop and climbed into his carriage. Telling the footman his destination, he settled in as the door was shut, maintaining his hold on the precious gift. It would not do for his Elizabeth to receive anything that was not as perfect as he could make it.

A half hour later, his arms aching a bit from his careful hold on the flowers, Darcy exited his carriage in front of the Gardiners’ house. Soon, he was handing his hat and gloves to the maid who had admitted him and being announced to the family gathered in the drawing room. He was not surprised to see Bingley already there.

As he entered, a gasp went up amongst the female occupants of the room at the sight of the huge bouquet. Elizabeth’s hand went up to her mouth. He was declaring to her and everyone in the room his devotion, and she could think of nothing more romantic for such a private man to do.

He soon stood before her. Bowing, he said, “These are for you, my love. I know from our discussions how fond you are of purple flowers, and I remembered that these particular ones stand for love and devotion.” He smiled at her before continuing. “I wanted to surprise you with a gift, and could not think of anything I thought you might enjoy more.”

As she curtseyed, then accepted the bouquet into her arms, Elizabeth graced him with a radiant smile. “Thank you, Fitzwilliam. They are beautiful! You made an excellent choice!”

“Oh, Lizzy,” Aunt Gardiner gushed, “what a beautiful bunch of lavender! There are enough blooms to fill several vases … what do you say we divide them up a bit? Some for your chamber, and some for the dining and drawing rooms? I am not sure I have a vase large enough to contain them all.”

Laughing, Elizabeth agreed. “Yes, Aunt, that sounds like a very good plan.”

Mrs. Gardiner rang the bell for the maid before taking the bouquet. “I will be back shortly. Please, Mr. Darcy, have a seat. I will order biscuits and a fresh pot of tea while I am gone.”

“Thank you, madam,” Darcy replied, before seating himself on the settee next to his betrothed.

“I say, Darcy, you make it hard on a gentleman to keep up with you. I fear that I may seem to be lacking in courtship skills compared to you,” Bingley teasingly commented to his friend, delighting in the blush that spread over his face as the ladies giggled. “First you propose before I do, then you buy every flower in London to present to your betrothed. I believe I need to get on with things; at the rate you are going, you will be back from the honeymoon before I am able to gather my thoughts.”

Laughter overtook the room. Even Darcy, as much as he hated being teased, chuckled along. “Perhaps, then, my friend, you should get on with it.”

“Perhaps I should,” his friend replied, glancing at the object of his affections. “Perhaps I should.”

To be continued …



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