Chapter 27

            After the day before, one would expect the Bennets, Darcys, and Bingleys would have been exhausted. The excitement of the event which would happen that morning made it difficult for some to find rest, and the occupants of Longbourn’s dower house and Netherfield Park were out of their beds shortly after sunrise.

            Maggie joined her daughter in Lizzy’s room. “My dear girl, how proud I am of you. You are such a remarkable lady and Mr Darcy is a fortunate man.”

            Lizzy fell into Maggie’s motherly embrace.

            “I am frightened yet eager. William is the perfect match for me, yet there is so much unknown to me.”

            “As is expected. You have not been hidden from the farm animals as they mate. That gives you some idea of the action. What you would not know is the emotional part of marital relations. First, I want you to know there is nothing wrong with a lady receiving pleasure from the marriage bed. Most think that ladies would be wanton if she were to find some pleasure. Also, most amongst the ranks of society from which William comes, the couple only sleeps in the same bed when they have relations. I would not be surprised if William prefers to, like your father and I, share the same bed at all times.”

            The thought of her parents having marital relations was difficult and Lizzy wanted to change the subject quickly.

            “All I will tell you, my dear girl, is trust in your husband. He is a kind and caring man. If you are open with him, talk about what you enjoy and what you do not, I am certain William will be a very loving husband.” Maggie smiled at her daughter’s cheeks growing bright pink.

            Picking up a brush, Maggie began brushing Elizabeth’s hair. “I have always thought your hair was so pretty. Your curls frame your face perfectly.”

            Mrs Hill entered the room, followed by Mrs Phillips and Mrs Gardiner. Each of the ladies had something to give to Elizabeth.

            Mrs Phillips stepped forward. “Every bride should have something old, as well as something new, something borrowed, and something blue. You will be wearing the hair combs that were your mother’s, which will be something old. I have a necklace and earbobs of pearls that I wish to loan you for your wedding.” She opened a velvet bag and removed a simple strand of matched pearls and the single pearl earbobs.

            “Aunt, they are beautiful.” Elizabeth smiled.

            “They were my mother’s. She would have been so proud of you.”

            Mrs Gardiner moved forward. “I brought you something blue.” She opened a small pouch. Inside was a bracelet that had pearls and a single small sapphire. “I knew you were wearing pearls, so I thought this would go along with the pearl necklace, earbobs, and combs, yet has the single sapphire. I wore it on my wedding day.”

            “You have my word that I will take care of it and return it before we leave for London.”

            Mrs Hill then came forward. “Miss Lizzy, I am so proud of the young lady you have become. It has been an honor to watch you grow up and now you will be a wife and mistress of your own estate.”

            “Dear Mrs Hill. You have always taken such care of our family. It has been like you were an aunt who assisted in everything.” Elizabeth accepted the small package the housekeeper handed her. Opening it, Elizabeth found a handkerchief that had been embroidered with deep red roses and Elizabeth’s new initials in one corner.

            “I had been making it for your birthday, but decided to finish it quickly so you would have it for your wedding. Every young lady should have a handkerchief at the ready on their wedding day.” Mrs Hill explained.

            “It is beautiful. Thank you so much Mrs Hill.” Elizabeth embraced the lady, then made her rounds to embrace the other ladies. “I never would have imagined having so many wonderful people in my life. Thank you does not seem enough to tell you how grateful I am for each of you being in my life.”

            Maggie smiled. “It was difficult, as you are well aware that you were a most difficult child. Always falling down and skinning your knees or climbing in trees. You are fortunate that I was not calling for my smelling salts to calm my poor nerves.

            All the ladies laughed. Holding out her hand, Maggie gave her daughter a shilling. “You should always have a coin in your shoe for luck on your wedding day.”

            Soon, all but Maggie and Elizabeth had left the room. The maid who had been hired for Elizabeth entered the room to assist her mistress dress and style her hair. It was not long before Elizabeth Bennet was ready to leave her father’s home for the last time bearing the name of her birth. Soon, she would be Mrs Elizabeth Darcy.

            Maggie and Elizabeth made their way down the stairs, finding her father and Jane waiting for them. Jane hurried forward to her sister.

            “Oh, Lizzy, you look like an angel. Mr Darcy will be entranced by you and forget to speak his vows.”

            “I am certain that Mr Bingley will remind him with a not too subtle elbow to the ribs.” Elizabeth teased.

            Mr Bennet took his daughter’s hand. “My little girl, you are not little anymore. You are a beautiful lady. Your mother would be so proud of you.”

            “It feels as if she were here, with us.” Elizabeth whispered.

            “I am certain she is. Come, let us take you to the chapel before your young man comes rushing in here and sweeps you away.”

            The pair shared a chuckle.

            Following Maggie and Jane, the Bennets left the house, entering the waiting carriage.

            They were soon at the chapel, with Bennet handing down his wife and eldest daughter before handing down his second daughter.

            The rest of the day was a blur of excitement. The ceremony was over before Elizabeth or William knew what was happening, as they only had eyes for one another. Jane and Bingley had to continue reminding the couple to say their lines. Richard sat in one of the pews, desperately trying to contain his laughter. Lord Matlock also found his nephew’s behavior to be humorous, though the looks from his wife kept his laughter at bay.

            The wedding breakfast was held in the Longbourn manor house, as the construction had been concluded. Cook had outdone herself, preparing all of Elizabeth’s and William’s favorite foods. The Lucas family had joined the celebration, the only neighbors who were invited.

            During the wedding breakfast, Sir William explained of how quickly word had spread through the area of what had happened the day before. “The neighbors have had a change of heart about accepting your family. Learning the truth of my heritage, most realized that they had been judging you because of appearance. Also, Bennet, you broke a few hearts when you remarried. Several of the women in the area had hoped to be the next Mrs Bennet. When you brought Maggie home, the disappointment soured some of them against accepting her.”

            “I cannot blame them.” Maggie said, leaning close to her husband as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “He is quite the catch. Any lady would have been fortunate to have secured him.”

            “Realizing their jealousy fueled their opinion of Maggie and your family, the women are rightfully ashamed of how they have behaved.”

            Lady Lucas described how Mrs Long had broken down in tears when she learned of the events the day before. Mrs Long had resented Maggie, as she had her heart set on capturing the widower for herself. She finally accepted Mr Long’s hand the year after Bennet and Maggie had married.

            Mrs Phillips also informed everyone of those who had called on her the previous evening. Several had apologized for how they had treated the Bennets, asking if Mrs Phillips would convey their apologies to her relations.

            The newlyweds hardly touched a bite of the food, their attention was solely focused on the departure, when they could be alone.

            Two hours after Elizabeth and Darcy had married, the couple were loaded into their carriage and on their way to London, with their loved ones waving them off.

            As soon as they were off, William took his wife in his arms, holding her close. “Have I told you that I love you with all my heart, Mrs Darcy?”

            “Hmm, I am not certain that I believe you. Perhaps I will require having you tell me again and again.”

            Darcy moved so he could move his lips to hers, placing a gentle kiss on them. Slowly, his lips moved to just below her ear, placing kisses along the way. “I love you, my dearest, loveliest Lizzy.”

            Elizabeth could not control the shivers of excitement that coursed through her.

            “Perhaps we should rest. I did not sleep much last night.” Darcy said, keeping his arm wrapped around her.

            “You are not alone. At the most, I slept for close to an hour.” As if by command, a yawn overtook her as she spoke.

            “Then rest your head on me. We will have several hours until we arrive at Darcy House.”

            The rocking of the carriage soon had the newlyweds fast asleep. Neither woke when the driver stopped to allow the occupants of the carriage to refresh themselves. The driver, Portman, opened the carriage door and smiled at his employer. He could remember the night before his own wedding, and he was aware of how little he had slept. Portman did not wake the gentleman, allowing the couple to continue sleeping, as he had not doubt there would be little to no sleep in the coming night.

            When they arrived at Darcy House, Darcy woke to find his beloved wrapped in his arms. “Lizzy, my love, we are at our home.”

            Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered open. She could not believe her eyes, as the townhouse was the finest she had ever seen.

            After being handed down from the carriage, Elizabeth found herself led up the steps to the front door, which opened immediately.

            “Master William, welcome.” The housekeeper declared as they entered the house.

            “Mrs Moreland, it is a pleasure to be here. May I introduce you to my wife, Mrs Elizabeth Darcy, nee Bennet. Elizabeth, this is Mrs Moreland, the housekeeper of Darcy House. She has been here since before I was born.” Darcy was proud to introduce his bride to one of the ladies who had acted as a mother figure for him and Georgiana after the death of their mother.

            Mrs Moreland curtsied to the new mistress. “Welcome, Mrs Darcy. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. If there is anything you require, you need only ask.”

            “Thank you, Mrs Moreland. Mr Darcy has told me of your devotion to Darcy House and his family. I look forward to speaking with you during our stay, as I especially wish to learn of my husband’s childhood. Any bit of mischief he committed would be perfect to know so I can tease him.”

            The look on Elizabeth’s face and the smile that Darcy wore made Mrs Moreland at ease. This was a love match. She had worried that her master had been trapped in a loveless marriage, but it was clear that the couple loved one another. A letter would be sent later that day to Mrs Reynolds at Pemberley.

            Darcy led his wife to the mistress’ suite of rooms. “If you wish changes made, you need only say so. The rooms have not been redecorated since my mother’s death.”

            Elizabeth was in awe of the beautiful room. The colors and furnishing made her feel as if she were outdoors in nature. “I could not imagine changing anything.”

            “Mother said it reminded her of her favorite gardens at Pemberley.”

            “Then I look forward to seeing your home.”

            “Our home, Elizabeth. It is our home.” Darcy gathered his wife in his arms, kissing her quite soundly. “Do you prefer dining and perhaps reading, or would you prefer other activities?”

            The lift of her eyebrow and impertinent expression in her eyes gave him her answer. No one at Darcy House saw the newlyweds for the next two days, though food and drink were supplied to the sitting room attached to their suite. Mrs Moreland was certain that there would another joyous occasion in nine months.

Chapter 28

            August 1833

            The Darcy family was visiting Longbourn for a month before returning to Pemberley. There was reason to celebrate, as Thomas and Maggie Bennet were preparing to celebrate their five and fortieth wedding anniversary.

            Also, the family had gathered together to celebrate the new law that had finally passed.

            Starting in the year seventeen hundred and seventy two, with the Sommersett case, England had slowly worked for the abolishment of slavery in all aspects of British Empire. The year eighteen hundred and seven Slave Trade Act had made some improvement, but it took until the year eighteen hundred and thirty three to finally to come finally act and abolish slavery throughout the Empire.

The Royal Navy had established a West Africa Squadron which patrolled the coast of West Africa, suppressing the slave trade in the Atlantic. Hundreds of ships had been captured and tens of thousands of Africans had been freed by the squadron. Many of the Africans were settled in Jamaica and the Bahamas.

            In the year eighteen hundred and thirty one, Jamaica saw a slave revolt, known as the Baptist War. It had started out as a peaceful strike, as the slaves demanded more free time and to be paid a wage, but quickly became violent when nearly sixty thousand of the slaves on the island began setting fire to sugar cane fields. Maggie’s brother had been in Jamaica at the plantation of a friend, on business, and was killed during the violence. After the violence, approximately five hundred slaves were executed, including Sam Sharpe, a black Baptist deacon. The damage to estates on the island came to a total of over one million pounds.

            After the investigation, The House of Lords voted to abolish slavery completely. Lord Matlock, Richard’s elder brother had taken over his inheritance the previous year when his father died, was pleased to have been able to vote on the matter, standing firmly against slavery.

            The family had grown over the years. Jane and Bingley had married and remained at Netherfield. They had one son and four daughters, all of whom were as kind and good natured as their parents. Bingley was surprised when Caroline had returned to Netherfield, arriving shortly after the Darcy wedding, with a murderous gleam in her eyes. Learning she was too late to claim her choice of husband, Caroline finally agreed to marry a gentleman with a small estate near Bath. She never forgave Mrs Nichols for sending her on a false trip that prevented Caroline from achieving her goal.

            Samuel had taken over the running of Longbourn, as his father was desiring more time in his study rather than working side by side with the tenants. Samuel married Maria Lucas, the younger daughter of Sir William and Lady Lucas. They had given their parents three grandchildren, including the next heir apparent to the estate.

            Phillip had decided to follow the example of his namesake and trained to be a solicitor. He became well known in Meryton for his fairness and honesty. He married one of Mrs Long’s nieces and they lived in a cottage in Meryton. Their two children were loved and adored by all, but especially by Mr and Mrs Phillips, who acted the part of grandparents by choice.

            Mary had married a clergyman who had taken the living at Longbourn. The couple had been blessed with three sons.

            Thomas had taken his education and, with the aid of his father, brother, and both Darcy and Bingley, started a school on a piece of land his family had purchased just outside Meryton. All children, male or female, rich or poor, no matter their skin color or heritage, were welcome at the school. His wife was the daughter of one of the Bennet tenants, and they lived in the rooms above the classrooms. Their two children were loved and had begun teaching, alongside their parents.

            Georgiana Darcy had married a viscount and they lived at his estate which was only ten miles from Pemberley. They had been blessed with three children.

            Richard Fitzwilliam had resigned his commission and had taken up residence at Rosings Park. Anne de Bourgh had outlived her mother by two years, though she knew her health would not allow her a long life or a family of her own. She had left the estate to Richard, wishing to see him safe in England. He had married, finally giving his mother the grandchildren she had been eager to spoil.

            Darcy and Elizabeth had indeed given birth to their first child nine months to the day of their wedding. Mrs Moreland was not surprised, and she was grateful for the next generation of the Darcy family. After Alexander Thomas Darcy came five other children. Rose Georgiana, Amelia Jane, Bennet Richard, Charles William, and Margaret Francine. All had been blessings to their family, adored by their servants, and brought security to their tenants.

            Thomas and Maggie could not have imagined the wonderful life they enjoyed. After the attack on Longbourn, their neighbors had changed over the days, months, and years. The Bennets were welcomed into society of the area. With the revelation of Sir William’s family, others began to realize they only saw the skin color and not looking at the people inside the skin.

            As Thomas held his beloved wife in his arms, he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “My dearest love, how grateful I am for our family. They are the best of us both.”

            “Indeed. Most people look at wealth as being money or items. But the true wealth is inside our loved ones, and that makes us the wealthiest people in the world.”

                                                            THE END