Chapter 1 - Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Arrive at Pemberley
The house is situated in a valley of rolling foothills, in an attitude that it has been a part of Mother Nature for all these years instead of ostentatiously built . . .
Elizabeth Bennet repeated in her mind the often spoken refrain from Mr. Darcy’s stories of Pemberley in her head. Plagued by nightmares of that terrible night her cousin beat her in Kent, the stories of Pemberley had helped her find her much needed sleep to heal during the weeks she had recuperated at his London town home.
The carriage rolled past a graveyard without stopping to pay any respects. Elizabeth Bennet looked to her left at her intended calmly reading the book in his hands. He appeared unaware of how far the carriage had progressed from their last stop in Darley.
“Fitzwilliam? Fitzwilliam?” Elizabeth tried to get his attention, and the man complied once he finished the page he was on.
“Yes, what is your concern?”
“I think we might be almost there.”
Darcy looked out the window to see that his future wife’s keen observation was, in fact, correct, they had traveled much more distance than he had realized with the preoccupation of Radcliff’s novel keeping his attentions. He had not believed Elizabeth when she warned the story was hard to put down but found himself captivated by the drama.
Since leaving Netherfield Park and the intimate evening Elizabeth had offered herself to him, the difficulty of waiting until their actual wedding night became an insurmountable struggle for Darcy. He chastised himself for so foolishly setting such a high expectation when they were to travel, unchaperoned, for nearly a week to Gretna Green. And their journey was to pause again for at least a day, perhaps two or three before they continued. He had no choice but to see to Pemberley’s business that had been so woefully neglected since his sister Georgiana’s disappearance a year ago come August.
“That is the village of Kympton’s cemetery. Not Pemberley’s. But we are not but a few miles from my home.”
Elizabeth giggled and squirmed in her seat, leaning closer to the window to observe all of the flora and fauna outside. For the past two months, the house of Pemberley had built up in her mind as the ultimate haven, a fairy-tale castle in a land where none of her troubles could reach her.
And there had been troubles. From the day she dove out of the way of Mr. Darcy’s racing horse the day after the Meryton Assembly, Elizabeth Bennet had been shunned by her family for refusing her cousin’s suit, beaten by that same cousin when she visited his wife and her best friend, Charlotte, and played a part in helping Fitzwilliam avoid the machinations of his family.
Fitzwilliam Darcy had recklessly sped to Meryton that day preoccupied he was sent away from London to hide a most urgent search for his sister, Georgiana, who had run off with Mr. George Wickham from Ramsgate. The two were found and married, but then his family wished to force him to marry his sickly cousin, Anne de Bourgh. If Anne did not marry and produce a child, the Rosings estate would pass from the trust where it now resided to Wickham’s hands according to Sir Lewis de Bourgh’s last will. George Wickham, raised by the steward and his wife at Pemberley, but favored by Darcy’s father with a gentleman’s education, was the natural child of Sir Lewis de Bourgh from an affair with Elizabeth Burrell, the sister by marriage to the Duke of Northumberland. Through subterfuge, Darcy and Elizabeth had aided Anne and his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, in marrying secretly in a love match, thwarting the designs of the elder generation in his family to meddle in the affairs of the younger.
Tucking his book aside, Fitzwilliam moved closer to Elizabeth’s person as he too stared out the window.
“And. . . .” He started to say but waited, Elizabeth looking back and forth between him and the window. The carriage rolled past the gate house, and Darcy chuckled. “Now we are on our lands.”
“But we’ve only traveled a little more than a mile since the cemetery?”
Darcy nodded, clasping Elizabeth’s hand he felt a surge of joy pulse through his veins. The rightful mistress of his household had crossed the threshold onto his lands; a dream Darcy began having while she recovered at Netherfield Park from their fated collision. “The house and main park rest on twelve thousand acres.”
Hearing Elizabeth suck in her breath, he squeezed her hand in his.
“Fitzwilliam, this is too much! I am to be mistress of all this?” Elizabeth again inspected the landscape outside appreciating the rambling hills of farmland and verdant fields left fallow. Her daily walks would never want for a new view and path as she often did at home when she lived in her father’s house!
He nodded and helped Elizabeth cross the middle of the coach so they might sit on the other side to face in the direction the carriage moved. “See that hill?” He pointed, and Elizabeth crooked her neck, squinting her eyes to make out where he gestured.
“When we crest the top of that hill, we shall stop the carriage, and you will be able to spy the house.”
True to his word, Elizabeth battled her nerves for only a few minutes more as the carriage reached the hill and the brakes were applied. Fitzwilliam got out of the carriage and offered his hand to his Elizabeth. Poking her head out of the carriage door as she accepted his assistance, her eyes didn’t leave the startling vista below them in the valley.
The afternoon sun positioned low in the sky cast an enchanting gleam across the white marble and stone walls, capped with golden flashing on each window sill. Elizabeth counted quickly nine columns of windows with multiple rows to convey the house stood at least three stories tall. Pemberley exceeded her wildest dreams from the stories she heard from Fitzwilliam. Suddenly, she felt overcome with emotion and needed a chance to comprehend her new life displayed before her. She asked the man by her side a simple question.
“May we walk the rest of the way?” Elizabeth’s legs felt cramped from the two days of riding in the carriage from Netherfield Park to reach Derbyshire. And soon, they had another three days of travel ahead of them to reach the Scottish border so they could marry as she would not turn one and twenty until later in the summer. With no dutiful fathers or crazed aunts chasing them down, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam were free to elope at the most leisurely pace imaginable.
Mr. Darcy spoke with his driver. The carriage, properly hitched for the hill, began its descent as Fitzwilliam offered his arm to his lady.
“Thank you, Fitzwilliam. I desperately needed a walk.”
He nodded and concurred that his legs too needed a stretch.
“The housekeeper is Mrs. Reynolds?” Elizabeth tried to remember the many details Fitzwilliam gave to her in their talks about the house. He nodded and she continued listing various staff names he had shared.
Less than half an hour later, they neared the beginning of the drive proper, and Elizabeth watched as an army of staff spilled out of the double doors to take their places along the steps to welcome the master and his soon to be wife. Her feet faltered at the hearty display of loyalty and Fitzwilliam paused their progress to kiss Elizabeth’s hand in the full view of those assembled to signal his unwavering approval of the new mistress.
“Welcome, Elizabeth, to Pemberley.”