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In Praise of Her Conceited Independence

Chapter Text

The next morning, Lizzy headed over to see Georgiana as promised. She decided to walk, as the day was beautiful and warm- likely one of the last of its kind before winter came.

She had not got far into the Netherfield grounds when she came across Mr. Darcy, riding on his horse. He alighted upon seeing her, bowed, and proceeded to tender an offer to escort her to Netherfield, which she accepted with pleasure.

"Georgiana will be very happy to see you, Miss Elizabeth," he said, as they began walking in the correct direction, his horse trailing behind them. "She has woken early today in anticipation of your visit, and has already visited the kitchens to ensure that your favorite scones would be made for you when you arrived."

Elizabeth smiled warmly. "I would expect nothing less of sweet Georgiana. Darcys truly are the dearest creatures in the entire world!"

The moment the words left her lips, Elizabeth blushed. She had inadvertently revealed more than she had intended to.

"They are, are they?" Darcy asked. Elizabeth was too embarrassed to look at him, but she thought she heard a smile in his voice. She nodded mutely in answer to his question.

"Well then," she felt him take her hand in his, "How would you like to become one of them?"

"Mr. Darcy?" she asked, barely daring to believe what she was being asked.

"Elizabeth, for some time now I have begun to entertain hopes of expanding the little family I share with Georgiana to include yourself. I wish to be your husband, and for you to be my wife. Will you turn our family of two into one of three, with the hopes of increasing it further? Will you give me your hand and take my name in return?"

Her heart was beating so fast, she was sure he could feel her pulse in his hand where he was holding hers. "I would be honored, Sir."

"My dearest Elizabeth!" And he pulled her into his arms.

"You have made me so very happy." he murmured into her hair. She finally found the courage to look up at him, and smiled at his delighted countenance.

"The depth of my feelings for you exceed my ability to express them, I believe," he said ruefully, "but let me only say with the utmost sincerity, how much I love and admire you."

"I can muster no better words for the occasion than you yourself have," she responded fondly. "I love you too, you dear, dear, wonderful man."

"More than you love Georgiana?" he asked, suddenly impish.

"I love you as a woman can only love a man," she replied, smiling indulgently.

"That answer will have to suffice," he said. "She will be very happy, you know, to welcome you into the family."

"We must go and tell her now!" exclaimed Elizabeth, suddenly overcome with excitement to see her friend and share the news with her. She began to walk towards Netherfield, but was pulled back by Mr. Darcy, who still held a grip on her hand.

"Perhaps," he requested, "Before reentering society and spreading the news of our felicity to all, we might remain here in seclusion long enough for me to ask for a kiss?"

"We might," Elizabeth replied, delighted with such daring. "And I have it on good authority that if you should indeed ask, you may very well receive a favorable reply."

Georgiana's glee upon being told of the engagement was expressed by emitting such a loud shriek of excitement that it caused Elizabeth to rub her ears vigorously, and Darcy to gape at her with a look of dumb incredulity. He had never before heard his sister speak at a pitch louder than 'adequately audible' and had not conceived of her being capable of producing such a sound.

Her joy, once expressed in slightly more intelligible terms, was everything that her brother and Elizabeth could have hoped for. The only fly in Darcy's ointment was Georgiana's excited speculation over how often Elizabeth could sleep over with her once she resided in Pemberley. He wished to nip that notion in the bud immediately, but did not know how without being indelicate.

Thankfully, Elizabeth possessed more tact than he himself did, and merely replied that she was sure to be lonely whenever Darcy was away from home and would doubtless seek Georgiana out on those nights for company. Georgiana's eyes widened for a moment, but then she nodded her understanding, blushing.

Mr. Bingley was the next person to hear the happy news, and he congratulated them most vigorously, repeatedly speaking of how he had been expecting such an outcome and how felicitous he was sure their marriage would be.

If he seemed a little concerned as well, Elizabeth put it out of her mind, until a while later when he was able to take her aside and ask her, looking quite worried, if she would be offended by a man offering marriage to her sister on the very same day that she had become engaged. Elizabeth had to suppress her own high-pitched squeal at such a question, and assured Mr. Bingley most sincerely that she did not feel such an event would eclipse her own happy news, but rather add to her felicity.

Mr. Bingely's happy congratulations were not very quiet or subtle, and upon Caroline Bingley entering the room, it did not take long for her to enquire about the source of such merriment. Thus, Miss Bingley became the next person to hear the news, as well as earn the distinction of providing the least pleasant of all the well-wishes they had received. She congratulated Elizabeth most enthusiastically for her bravery in quitting her own sphere for one so far above her own, and one in which she was destined to never be accepted or recognized. "I could never be half so brave as you, Eliza," she concluded. "For I cannot bear to be despised by my social superiors as you will no doubt be."

Mr. Darcy reddened with anger, but Elizabeth could only laugh. Such a paltry attack could hardly mar her joy on such an occasion, and she did not even bother to come up with a biting reply to such rudeness, feeling that her uncaring happiness was response enough.

Darcy, however, refused to leave such insolence unanswered. He had just opened his mouth to deliver what would have been a no-doubt scathing retort, when Georgiana preempted him by delivering one herself.

"I cannot see how all who know Lizzy could fail to love her. However, if she does meet with disapproval from others, I will take comfort in the fact that it is only a consequence self-important nonsense based on nothing more than connexions. She can never be despised for her character."

Miss Bingley was wise enough to comprehend what Georgiana was implying, and after muttering another polite congratulation, left the room, looking as if she had sucked a lemon.

Georgiana blushed slightly at the hasty departure, but there was a stubborn jut to her jaw that said she did not regret her words. Darcy felt his chest puff up with pride in his sister, and as soon as he found the opportunity to speak without being overheard, he whispered to Georgiana how proud he was of her.

She beamed at him and, if he was not mistaken, her back seemed to straighten at the praise. He knew that Georgiana of a year ago would not have had the confidence to deliver such a rebuke, and he sent a fond glance at the woman who he suspected was the source of Georgiana's courage.

Elizabeth must have sensed his gaze, because she turned around and, upon espying him looking at her, batted her eyes at him flirtatiously. He was overcome by the urge to respond in a way that would have been entirely improper, and was only saved by Bingley's timely proposal that they all share a toast in honor of the happy couple.

Soon after, it occurred to Elizabeth that they had been rather hasty with spreading the news of their joy before obtaining permission from her father. She had no concern of Mr. Bennet refusing them, but felt it was better that he should not hear news of the engagement from a different source before being approached by Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy concurred, and therefore to Longbourn the couple made haste in Mr. Bingley's carriage. They were accompanied there by Mr. Bingley who professed a wish to see the whole family. He blushed deeply while saying it, though, and fooled no-one.

They arrived to find Longbourn in a state of complete chaos. Mrs. Bennet was shrieking something loudly, and Elizabeth could not discern whether it was in joy or distress. The sound of Lydia and Kitty's raucous giggles could be heard amidst the exclamations of Mrs. Bennet, and Elizabeth hastened to question them over what had caused the fuss, depositing Darcy into Mr. Hill's capable hands, and instructing him to show Mr. Darcy the way to Mr. Bennet's study.

Darcy arrived at the door to the study to find Mr. Collins on the verge of entering.

"Mr. Darcy!" Mr. Collins exclaimed upon seeing him, bowing deeply. "An honor; a privilege to see you once again! You must forgive me now, for although I value your venerable presence most highly, the conversation I am to undertake with Mr. Bennet is of a private nature. Thus, I must bid you adieu for now. Adieu, adieu! A pleasure to speak with you, sir."

Then he went in and shut the door in Darcy's face.

Darcy stood in front of the door for a few moments, scowling at this unexpected obstacle, and then began to pace impatiently. A few minutes later, there was again a loud shriek from Mrs. Bennet that sounded suspiciously like: "Five thousand a year!", and Bingley walked up to the study soon after, pausing in confusion upon seeing Darcy standing there.

"Hullo, Darcy! Aren't you gone in to speak to Mr. Bennet?"

"Mr. Collins beat me to it," Darcy replied gruffly. "He is in the study talking to him now. I will see Mr. Bennet once he leaves. You-" he pointed at Bingley emphatically, "- must wait your turn."

Bingley accepted the news placidly, and leaned against the wall to wait. Darcy, bored with pacing, leaned against the wall next to him, taking care to place himself closer to the door than Bingley so as to mark his rightful place in line.

Soon after, Mr. Collins exited the study looking slightly befuddled, and Mr. Darcy hurried in to take his place.

"Another visitor?" Mr. Bennet raised his eyebrows upon seeing Darcy entering, and then sighed. "It used to be that this was a place of peace and solitude. It does not do, though, to yearn for better, simpler times, they never do come back. What can I do for you, Mr. Darcy?"

"Mr. Bennet, I have asked your daughter Elizabeth to marry me this morning."

"A rather fine show of good sense on your part; I commend you."

"Miss Elizabeth has accepter my offer."

"Whether that is a show of good sense on her part remains to be seen. I know no ill of you yet, however, and my Lizzy is a clever girl. Let us for now give her the benefit of the doubt."

Darcy resisted the urge to sigh at such a reception and persevered. "I have come now for your permission to take your daughter's hand in marriage."

"Oh, very well. If you are to take her hand, though, you might as well take the rest of her. You have my permission. As for me, I have the comfort of knowing that I will have at least one son who is not as stupid as Mr. Collins."

Darcy supposed that that was as warm a reception as he was likely to receive and thanked Mr. Bennet solemnly before departing with a sigh of relief. Bingley entered the study as he left, and Darcy heard Mr. Bennet exclaim from within: "Another! What now? Oh, Mr. Bingley; I presume you are here to ask for Jane's hand. Well, well, I suppose it is best to get it all over with at once. Have a seat."

Happy was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two eldest daughters. Georgiana cried, Mrs. Bennet exulted, Mr. Hurst snored, and the two couples smiled throughout.

Their marriages were very happy, and though Elizabeth and Darcy's was not as peaceful a relationship as Jane and Bingley's, they rather liked it that way.

Mary and Mr. Collins, who had married some weeks earlier, also enjoyed a felicitous marriage. They spent the chief of their time together with Mr. Collins speaking incessantly of Lady Catherine, Mary quoting incessantly from Fordyce, and neither paying what the other said the slightest bit of attention. It was an arrangement that suited them particularly well, though it severely tried their relations when they came to visit.

The wedding of Mr. Collins and Mary was officiated by the priest who had first recommended Mr. Collins to Lady Catherine's attention. Mr. Chester was a patient and fatherly man, who had done much to guide Mr. Collins during his studies, and Charlotte Lucas took an immediate shine to him.

All it took was a kind offer by Charlotte to show him the way from the church to Longbourne, where the wedding breakfast would be held, to bring her into Mr. Chester's attention, and a few subtle inquiries on both sides assured each that the other was unattached. From there things moved quickly, and precisely a month later, Mr. Chester again attended a wedding in that very church, but this time in the role of groom. Charlotte and Elizabeth remained good friends, and the couple could often be found visiting Pemberley.

As for Mr. Wickham, he did not at all have a good time of it at the madhouse, in which conditions were quite poor. He had had the misfortune of being placed upon arrival next to a man who was convinced that he was Napoleon. Upon seeing Wickham, the madman immediately declared him to be Marie Antoinette, and would speak to Wickham only in French. He spent the majority of his waking hours elaborating on his jumbled political theories, and berating Wickham for his failings as a ruler. Amidst the hunger, sleep deprivation, and constant loud noise, Wickham soon began to believe that he was, in fact, Marie Antoinette, and spent the rest of his short life loudly bemoaning his cruel and unjust fate in broken French. He died a few years later of a disease that swept through the facility.

Georgiana had the pleasure of having a wonderful and loving relationship with her relations through marriage, both in her brother's marriage to Elizabeth, and in her husband's family once she married some years later.

With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing Elizabeth into Ramsgate, had been the means of saving Georgiana and uniting them.

(Of course, the author never got any of the credit for being the means of uniting them, but it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied. Nobody knows what I suffer!)