The moment Anne said yes, Darcy stood and pulled her into an embrace.
“You have made me a very happy man, Anne de Bourgh. Happier than I could ever have imagined.”
“I could say the same of you, but then I would sound entirely unoriginal.”
Darcy threw back his head and laughed. “Minx!”
Anne enjoyed seeing the unreserved, playful side of her cousin. Here was the man who had winked at her, twice! She leaned back just enough to be able to see his face.
“I like to hear you laugh. It gives me hope that our future will not be so dreary.”
“With you by my side, I doubt that could happen. You have a joie de vivre that affects those around you.”
“I dearly love to laugh.”
“It was one of the things I found fascinating about you.”
Anne pulled him close again, nestling her head against his chest. “Hmmm, tell me what else caught your fancy.”
“Your wit, of course. Though I have long known how impertinent you are. I have seen how loyal you are; you went out of your way to befriend Miss Simpson for your cousin’s sake.
“I am not alone in noticing these things. My good friend Charles Bingley likes you, but I think you rather intimidate him.”
“How so? I like him very much.” Anne asked, surprised.
“Has he ever flirted with you?”
“No, he has not.”
“Bingley is a very amiable man, determined to be pleased with every one he meets. To not flirt with a woman means he is either uncomfortable or completely uninterested. Since I know he thinks you are a lovely young woman, I believe he is a little in awe of you.”
Anne looked up at him. “Then you are not in awe of me? How disappointing!”
“If I were, you would quickly grow bored. What challenge is there for you if the man you marry lets you have your way without resistance? No Anne, we are well matched. For I will not sit by idly while you do whatever you want, and you will certainly make known your opinions about my actions and decisions.” Darcy placed his finger under her chin. “I would not want it any other way,” he said softly, and then he brushed her lips with his.
The smiles on their faces disappeared, replaced by something infinitely more private. His lips descended upon hers and she met them eagerly. This kiss was not fleeting like the first. This was a kiss that unleashed the passion they had held in check.
Eventually he pulled away and rested his forehead against hers. They were breathing heavily, their hearts racing in their chests.
“Oh lord, Anne,” Darcy swallowed, “please, do not tell me you wish for some ridiculously long engagement! I fear for my sanity if we must wait very long to marry.”
“One kiss, and we are nearly undone,” she said, dazed.
“Soon enough.” Anne laid her head against his chest. She was still having trouble thinking clearly. If their relationship had changed when they began to speak of courtship, then it had been irrevocably transformed by what had just happened between them. They were lovers now, in everything but the final act of consummation.
“Come, let us walk again.” Darcy offered Anne his arm and they resumed their ramble.
The day was warm, but not oppressively hot, and though the two were walking so close together it would have been hard to tell whether it was the temperature or their proximity that made them seek the shade. Anne pointed to a sheltered bench where they could sit.
“I will speak with your mother when we return to ask her for her consent. I will seek out our uncle when I return to Town for his consent as well.”
“I think Mama gave her consent right after I was born,” Anne quipped.
“Nevertheless, I will ask her, even if it is only a formality.”
“Always the gentleman, Fitzwilliam.” Anne reached over and caressed his cheek. He smiled tenderly, covering her hand with his.
“You deserve no less; but I would like to have your agreement on a wedding date before I face her. Otherwise, I am afraid she will demand I go secure a license and marry you tomorrow.”
“Oh no. She will want to have time to glory in a match well made. I suspect I will be subjected to a plethora of calls and the subject of a great deal of correspondence. Are you certain you must leave me to face this alone?”
“I told you I must take Georgiana to her school. I also do need to speak with our uncle. He is your guardian and we cannot wed without his consent.”
“Unless we eloped, but our family would never forgive us if we did. Very well, but can we not wait a little longer before we return to the house? I quite like this wicked feeling of being alone with my betrothed in the middle of the Park.”
If ever there was an invitation for a man to kiss a woman, that surely was one. Darcy gladly accepted.
After the cousins had calmed down from their latest exploration of their newly acknowledged attraction, it was time to walk, and think, again.
“We should come to an accord on a wedding date before we meet with Aunt Catherine.” Darcy laughed lightly. “I think I need decide how I will address your mother. I cannot call my mother-in-law ‘aunt’ after we marry.”
“You could call her ‘Mother’ as I do, or ‘Mama’.”
“My mother will always be ‘Mother’ in my mind,” Darcy stated.
“‘Mother de Bourgh’?” They both shuddered; Anne stumbled. Once Darcy knew she was unharmed, he made sure he had a tighter grip on her arm as he led the way down the path.
“Perhaps ‘Lady Catherine’, while more formal, is the best choice. I can address her as ‘madam’ a majority of the time. But to return to the issue at hand, what is your opinion on the length of our engagement?”
“It will take some time to make all the arrangements. The marriage contract, for one thing, will not be the work of a day. And while my apartments here at Rosings are comfortable, it is not what the master and mistress of the estate should occupy. Mother still resides in the same rooms as when she was married. I will need to have work begin on our new chambers as soon as possible.”
“We can make do, and we will not spend all of our time in Kent.”
“I understand that, Fitzwilliam. Surely we will reside mainly in Derbyshire when not in Town.”
“Does that disappoint you?” he asked, concerned. “Rosings is your heritage.”
“But Pemberley is yours. Besides, we can leave Mama to continue comfortably at Rosings while we live primarily in Derbyshire.”
“I did once mention that the distance between the two estates was an advantage of the match,” he said smugly, “but I digress.”
“Surely if I need time to prepare Rosings for you, you will need time to prepare Pemberley for me?”
Darcy had anticipated her argument. “I made provisions with my steward before I left. All that is needed is a letter from me and they will be put into practice. Pemberley will be ready to claim you sooner than you think. Two months is all I need.”
“Two months! I cannot possibly be ready in two months!” Anne cried. “I was hoping a date in April would be acceptable.”
“April! That is nearly eight months away! No,” Darcy shook his head, “April is simply out of the question. December, before winter.”
“Three months is nearly as unreasonable as two for what needs to be done!”
“I would insist on a date before the new year if the situation on the Continent were not so precarious. I would like to take you on a wedding trip to Italy, but it is too dangerous to consider it now. We could go before the stifling heat of summer hits and be back in England when the weather is the nicest. However, until Napoleon is defeated, I will not risk such a journey. Besides, Aunt… Lady Catherine will never rest until she sees us married. She will support me…”
Later that afternoon in a parlor at Rosings
“… April would be the ideal month for you to marry. I will have plenty of time to have your new chambers here at Rosings prepared for your habitation and still be able to personally take Anne to Town for her trousseau. You have Pemberley to prepare, and your house in Town as well – though that place has the least to do. My sister had impeccable taste and Anne should be happy with her new chambers, at least until she has a chance to decide how she wishes to redecorate. Of course, my brother and I must work out the details of Anne’s settlement. Yes, April would give me just enough time to arrange everything. I am excessively attentive when it comes to Anne’s happiness.”
Anne sat through her mother’s recitation with a rather smug look on her face. She knew her mother well; Lady Catherine would be planning her crowning achievement and no one, bride or groom, would stop her. Fitzwilliam Darcy had underestimated his future mother-in-law.
Darcy and Anne had resolved to approach her together with the news of their understanding. Neither expected her ladyship to take the news tranquilly. Her long-held dream had come to pass and she would let everyone know it.
Thus they were a little taken aback when he asked for her consent and blessing and Lady Catherine said serenely, “Of course you have both. I gave it to you long ago, Fitzwilliam. Now about the wedding…” They had expected more effusions; Lady Catherine acted as if it were only what was expected. She did, however wear a satisfied smile the entire interview.
It was decided that a wedding in March would suit. They would be married from Kent and travel to London afterward. Lady Catherine suggested they could stay in Town for the Season, but neither Darcy nor Anne would say whether they preferred to stay in London or continue north to Derbyshire.
One thing was certain. Darcy did not get his way about an earlier wedding date. Belatedly he realized he never stood a chance.
If Anne thought she had escaped her mother’s raptures over the match, she was sorely mistaken. That evening, after Anne had retired, Lady Catherine came to see her in her chambers.
“It was about time you stopped dithering and came to an understanding.”
“Mother, I was not ready to give him an answer before now,” Anne said in her defense.
“Yes, well. It is done now, as I always knew it would be. After all these years of vowing never to marry Fitzwilliam, you came to your senses at last. Oh, I know you could have aspired to marry a titled gentleman, but many titled gentlemen come into a marriage with empty coffers. Your future husband is too much like his father, conscientious in all things, to ever worry for money. You will be well looked after and your children will not suffer from a lack of dowry like I did.”
Anne always wondered why her mother had married her father. Lady Catherine rarely spoke of her late husband and when she did, Anne never detected any fondness. Was her choice purely a matter of money? Anne pitied her mother if it were true.
“I am not marrying Fitzwilliam for his money. I like him very much.”
“Of course you do. You have practically grown up together. He will be a good husband, not bothering you with too many demands. Give him a few heirs and you can live in peace.”
“Be sensible, child. Men have this insatiable desire to produce a child to carry on the family name. Once they have one or two sons, the need becomes less consuming. You will not be forced to suffer from excessive attention.”
Anne was not about to engage her mother in a conversation about children and how they were begotten. There would be time for that later and Anne had a suspicion that her mother’s experience would not be repeated by her, not if Fitzwilliam’s kiss was any indication of the pleasures of the marriage bed to come.
“At least you were not too stubborn for your own good. I am very relieved that Rosings will be in such capable hands. I knew Fitzwilliam was the perfect man to become the new master. He will not let you have your way.”
“I thank you for your confidence is me.”
“Oh, you are ready to be a fine mistress in my stead. I have spent years preparing you to someday take my place. All you need is a husband, and soon you will have one. It is all as I have hoped since the first time I held you in my arms.
“Now then, Fitzwilliam will speak to your uncle after he has seen Georgiana to school. The dear child could have no better sister than you. But until your cousin has seen my brother, we must keep the news of your betrothal to ourselves. I expect that we will journey into Town ourselves at the end of the month. That gives us plenty of time to visit all of our neighbors before we take our leave for London again. Any remaining details of your settlement can be addressed at that time.”
There was one issue Anne was determined to settle before Darcy left Kent. It concerned the marriage settlements and the disposition of Rosings. She hated bringing up an issue she knew would lead to a disagreement, but it could not be helped.
“Darling,” she began, “before your departure, there is one thing I wish to discuss. I fear it will be unpleasant, but it needs to be resolved.”
“This sounds serious.”
“It is; we need to discuss Rosings.”
“Rosings? Rosings is yours and will be given to one of our children, hopefully a second son. What else is there to discuss?”
“As of this moment, if anything were to befall me before we married, Rosings would devolve to my cousin, Arthur de Bourgh.”
“I am not surprised; I doubted you would name your mother as your heir. He is your nearest relative on the de Bourgh side of your family. Have your wishes changed?”
“Not in the least; that is what I wish to settle before the wedding settlements are finished. I wish for Arthur to remain my heir should anything happen to me before we have a child.”
“You want Arthur to have Rosings, instead of me?”
“You have your Pemberley. Why cannot Arthur have Rosings? This should be a moot point. Once we have children, they would have first claim to the estate. I only wish for Arthur to be the heir presumptive.”
“I do not know if this is wise, Anne.”
“Nevertheless, it is what I want. I warn you that I am perfectly willing to postpone the wedding indefinitely until you agree.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“No. It is for the best. And Rosings is his family’s ancestral estate, too.”
“Your mother will not approve.”
“My mother is not the heiress of Rosings Park – I am. Until we marry, it is mine. I only want my wishes to be carried out in the unlikely event of my demise. Please, Fitzwilliam?”
He sighed, resigned to the fact that he would forever be acceding to her wishes. “Very well, it shall be as you ask, but only if you agree that Rosings should be given to a second son.
“Agreed, or a daughter if there is no other male.”
“As you wish. I will tell my solicitor to include that in the marriage documents. Are you content now?”
“Oh yes, that is a great worry lifted from my mind. It is important to me that the de Bourgh line continues in ownership of the estate, either through me or through Arthur. You would wish the same for Pemberley.”
“I would, indeed!”
“Come, I will not detain you any longer. You need to leave and I am not helping you prepare.”
Thus Darcy left his future bride to collect Georgiana and then saw his sister established in her school. Until Anne and Lady Catherine arrived in Town, he continued to prepare his London household to welcome the new mistress.
Charles Bingley was always welcome at Darcy’s townhouse. The butler, Clayton, had orders to allow the gentleman entrance into the house even when the master was not “at home” to visitors. Bingley was a pleasant man and Darcy valued his friendship. Darcy also felt a bit responsible for the younger man, having already rescued him from a few scrapes of the romantic kind, for Charles Bingley was a man who fell into love quickly. Darcy felt that if he could keep Bingley from proposing to his latest flame until he had a chance to fall out of love, Bingley would eventually find a woman who was not solely after his money.
When Bingley was announced, Darcy was surprised and pleased. When Miss Caroline Bingley was announced as well, Darcy was taken aback. Bingley had always called alone.
He should have had an idea that this was no normal visit when Bingley would not look him in the eye when he greeted him.
“I did not know you had returned to Town. Last I heard you were visiting family in the North.”
“We arrived but yesterday,” Caroline Bingley answered for her brother.
“I am surprised you have time to make calls today, Miss Bingley. I believe your sister’s wedding is in a few weeks.”
“Louisa is out shopping today, but when Charles said he was going to see if you were here, I insisted he bring me along. As we have just arrived, I have not had a chance to read the papers at all and I had hoped to hear news of the comings and going of the ton.”
Miss Bingley seized the opportunity to capture his arm and place her hand in it. Darcy did appreciate the proficiency of her action. Few women could accomplish the feat with such aplomb at such a young age.
“You should have accompanied your sister; surely the shops she patronizes today will hold more information than what you might glean here.”
“Then you simply must tell us what you have been amusing yourself with as of late. Charles always looks to your example.”
Darcy looked sharply at his friend, with the feeling that Bingley had not told his sister the news of his betrothal to Anne. Bingley looked like a young boy caught stealing treats from the kitchen. Darcy was about to reveal his news when Lady Catherine and Anne were announced. He felt Miss Bingley tighten her grip on his arm. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her look at Anne in a way that reminded him of a dog sizing up its competition. Darcy then looked at his friend and saw him trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible.
Darcy knew that if Bingley continued to allow his sister to order him about, as she most likely had that morning, he would be in for difficulty later. He would be unable to control Caroline and she would, by her self-serving actions, put him in situations more awkward than this.
Very well, Darcy thought, perhaps this is as good a time as any for another lesson.
Uncharacteristically, Darcy started speaking before Lady Catherine had a chance to say a word.
“Lady Catherine, Cousin Anne! What a delightful surprise, I had not expected you.” He had known they were coming, and they were momentarily puzzled by his declaration. “Allow me to introduce to you my good friend, Charles Bingley and his sister, Caroline. This is my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and her daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh. Aunt Catherine, I do not know if you remember Mr. Bingley, but Anne met him last Season. Anne, Mr. and Miss Bingley have just arrived in Town from Scarborough for their sister’s wedding. They were very gracious to call so soon after their arrival.” Darcy winked at Anne and Lady Catherine as a signal to play along with his little charade and he made no effort to kiss Anne’s hand, the first time he had not since their betrothal. Of course, his mode of address already alerted them that some mischief was about. Their engagement had been announced weeks ago and he had ceased calling Lady Catherine “aunt” before he left Kent.
Miss Bingley curtsied at the introduction, but did not release Darcy’s arm. No mean feat! Anne arched her eyebrows at the display. Lady Catherine pursed her lips, though whether it was in annoyance or amusement was uncertain.
“A pleasure, your ladyship.”
Anne turned to Mr. Bingley. He looked miserable.
“Mr. Bingley! Allow me to offer my congratulations on your elder sister’s nuptials. She weds soon?”
“Uhm, yes. In a few weeks,” he stammered. “We are very much looking forward to gaining a new brother.” Caroline wrinkled her nose at her brother’s pronouncement.
“Well, you know what they say, one wedding often leads to another. I wonder who will be next to enter into the married state?”
Darcy nearly choked, stifling his laughter; Anne had quickly caught on.
“Yes, Cousin Anne! You never know when you will meet the one destined to become your spouse.” Darcy smiled down at Caroline – who in turn caught her breath and clutched his arm harder.
Lady Catherine “hmph’d” and sat down on her favorite oversized chair, the one that had always reminded Darcy of a throne. He kept it in the room for his aunt’s sake.
The party conversed for nearly fifteen minutes. Darcy politely endured Caroline Bingley’s interrogation, and then asked her about her coming out into Society. She happily told him of their plans both before and after the wedding and hinted she would be pleased to dance with him when they were at the same events.
“Ah, Miss Bingley, that would all depend.”
“On what, sir?” she asked, stepping into the trap he had patiently laid.
“The wishes of my fiancée, of course.”
Charles Bingley groaned. Caroline shot her sibling a dark look.
“You are engaged?”
“Of course. How careless of me not to notice. I should have realized you had not known, otherwise you would have undoubtedly offered us your congratulations earlier.”
“Undoubtedly! I wish you joy, Mr. Darcy.”
“Miss Anne de Bourgh. I thought everyone knew we were intended for each other since Anne was a little girl.”
“I had not… that is…” Caroline Bingley squared her shoulders as she turned to face Anne. “My congratulations on your betrothal. Had I but known, I would have offered them earlier.”
Bingley could no longer remain silent. Blushing, he went to stand before Anne. “You must forgive Caroline, I must have dreamt telling her your excellent news. I too would like to offer my congratulations, Miss de Bourgh. My friend is a most fortunate man to have secured the promise of your hand in marriage.”
Anne extended her hand and Mr. Bingley bowed over it, being careful to release it as soon as he could politely do so, knowing Darcy was watching him.
“We will leave you now. Come, Caroline.”
As they were walking out, Bingley pulled Darcy aside. “I cannot believe you strung along Caroline like that, Darcy!”
“Perhaps it was beneath me, but you both needed the lesson. You should have told her of my engagement and she should not have made such a fool of herself over me. Really, such behavior does neither of you credit and if she is not careful, she could find herself in a difficult situation. Not all men she will meet are honorable. Fortunately, Anne was very gracious. She had every right to tell your sister to stop hanging onto her betrothed.” Darcy gave his friend a very pointed look.
“You are correct. I will speak to her after we leave.” Bingley’s smile returned. “But let me offer you my congratulations as well. Miss de Bourgh is a fine catch.”
“That she is. Thank you. Am I still invited to the wedding?”
“Of course.” The amiable Bingley had returned; he slapped Darcy’s shoulder. “Caroline wishes it!”
The weeks wore on and soon it was approaching the end of the year. Darcy had attended Louisa Bingley’s wedding and wished the newly married couple well. He also made a concerted effort to dance with Miss Caroline Bingley whenever they attended the same assemblies and balls. Anne knew his conscience played on him for the little drama he had orchestrated in his home. Fortunately, Miss Bingley recovered from her mortification and wisely accepted Mr. Darcy’s proffered olive branch. She used his attentions to entice other men into her company. There were many “fish in the sea” who would overlook her connections with trade in exchange for her handsome dowry. She may have been disappointed, but she was no fool.
It was decided that Darcy needed to return to Derbyshire to attend to Pemberley. He wanted to leave before winter storms hit the North, making travel difficult at best. Georgiana would remain at her school. Lady Catherine decided to tarry in Town for a few more weeks and then return to Rosings until the wedding.
Before he left, Darcy managed to find some time alone with Anne. Mrs. Jenkinson had proven to be a very conscientious chaperone. She said little in company, but she doggedly would not let the couple out of her sight. Mercifully, Lady Catherine had intervened and allowed the cousins a few moments of privacy.
Not much was said, as they were more agreeably engaged; their lips battled for supremacy while their hands roamed in exploration of their torsos. Darcy dared to reach lower to hold Anne’s posterior, pulling her even tighter against him. Before the lust veered out of control, Anne broke the spell over them laying her head against Darcy’s wildly beating heart.
“Why did I ever want to wait until spring to be married?” she gasped.
“If you had capitulated to my suggestion, we would be married by now and instead of having to steal these moments alone. I fear if we keep this up, I will disgrace myself.”
“When we are together like this, part of me wants you to do just that. Then the rational side intervenes and we are left putting our clothing to rights. Oh Fitzwilliam, this will be a long three months.”
And so it was. The two lovers had to content themselves with letters for the first two months until Darcy was able to return to Kent. Along the way he stopped to collect Georgiana from her school. She would return there after the wedding.
The weather still held remnants of winter, but the days were not so cold that Anne was unable to resume her tours of the estate. She knew every inch of Rosings, both inside the noble house and outside in its grand park. Anne was aware that she would not be spending much time here any more. Her place would be at Pemberley. Yes, they would return to her childhood home, but only for a short time each year. How long until she would start to forget the way to the secluded glen where she and her beloved nearly lost all their restraint? Years down the road, would she still be able to find the spot where Fitzwilliam proposed and sealed their fate with love’s first kiss?
Maggie found Anne sitting on a log under the canopy of the massive trees that populated the grove.
“Miss Anne! There you are. Your mother has requested your presence.”
“Mrs. Stuart! What are you doing here? Could not another servant come to find me?”
“Yes, but I wanted to come for you.” Maggie tipped Anne chin up. “You look sad, child. Whatever for? You marry tomorrow. Are you having doubts over your choice?” she asked, her voice full of concern.
Anne smiled at her old friend. She would miss Maggie’s calming presence.
“Dear Mrs. Stuart. However would I have managed without you? No, fear not, I am very excited to be marrying Mr. Darcy.” Anne’s face took on a dreamy look. “I love him so very much. My mood comes from the realization that when the sun sets tomorrow, nothing will ever be the same.”
“The changes have already begun, child. It was inevitable. You are a grown woman, Miss Anne de Bourgh, no longer the little girl who cried for old Maggie when she scraped her knee.”
“I did that rather regularly, if I recall correctly.” Anne had a wistful look on her face.
Maggie laughed. “You were always involved in some mischief, that is why you were so adorable.” She stepped closer. “Looking at you now, I see a beautiful woman in the bloom of her femininity. Think fondly on the past and look to the future with anticipation.”
“How did you become so wise so young?” Anne said fondly.
“Miss, if you serve a woman like your mother for as long as I have, you get many opportunities to learn a few things.”
Anne laughed. “I have never understood why Mama has allowed such impertinence from you. She certainly would dismiss any other servant.”
“You do know I would never say such a thing in front of any one but you.”
“…Or my mistress, but only when she needs to hear it from me. Lady Catherine and I came to an understanding long ago. She knows she has my complete loyalty and thus allows me to speak my mind occasionally, but never in front of other servants. They can be the worst gossips.”
“Worse than the fine ladies of the ton?”
“Nearly. The Quality must have their vices.”
“Of which there are many.” Anne became reflective again. “I will miss our talks, Mrs. Stuart. You have always had time to listen to me.”
“I will still be here when you come back to Rosings. I am the only servant who remains from before you were born. If I have served your family for this long, why would I leave now that you are married?”
“Truly? Are there no others from the days when my father was alive?”
“None, Miss. I alone remain. But come, your mother has summoned you and we have delayed long enough.”
“Mother always wants to see me. I will be glad when tomorrow is over; there will be no more wedding plans to discuss!”
“Ah, there you are. Where have you been all morning?” demanded Lady Catherine.
“I was walking, as I normally would do on such a fine day.”
“I will have to place Mrs. Jenkinson and Stuart as a guard over you in the morning to see that you do not accidentally wander away. Heavens! What would your fiancé think if you were late for your own wedding?”
Anne kissed her mother on the cheek. “I have no intention of going out for a walk in the morning; I have more important things to prepare for.”
“Yes, well, it is high time we talk about some of those things. As a married woman you will be expected to… welcome all the attentions of your husband. I will not lie to you as my own mother did. It can be unpleasant and painful, especially the first time. There will be blood, but you must not complain. It will be over soon enough and then you can send him to his own chambers.”
Lady Catherine went on to explain the activity in more detail. Anne listened attentively, though what her mother told her was not much more than she already knew. There had been that one morning in the glen a few weeks ago when she and Fitzwilliam had nearly gone too far. She knew the differences between a man and a woman and how they would come together to make a child. Only her soon-to-be husband’s sense of honor had kept them from experiencing this already. It had led to some awkwardness between the two of them, but as always, good sense won out and they had talked about what had happened, and what would happen when they were safely man and wife. Since then, Anne had looked forward to it.
However, it saddened Anne that her mother had obviously not had any good experiences with her father. Perhaps that was why she was an only child.
“Do you have any questions for me?” Lady Catherine asked when she had finished her lecture.
“No, you have done an admirable job of being honest with me about what to expect.”
“I am sorry to disappoint you with the realities of your duty.”
“I will be fine, Mother. I know how to manage my husband,” Anne said, trying to reassure her mother. It was not often Anne saw Lady Catherine look so forlorn.
Lady Catherine replied skeptically, “Let us hope so.”
Fitzwilliam Darcy handed his bride into the awaiting carriage. All of their family stood outside Rosings to wish them well. The wedding had been lovely, though Anne was a little worried about her aging parson, Mr. Lawton. The spry old gentleman was able to perform the service with a clear voice, but he did have a little difficulty standing without the aid of the pulpit to hold. After she and her new husband had signed the register, they had returned to Rosings for a wonderful wedding breakfast. Anne Darcy thought her mother never looked so joyful.
Many of the servants had turned out to watch their young mistress leave her home as well. Anne was truly loved by them and she would be missed. Their consolation was her promise to return to spend part of the year at her childhood home. The estate was now completely hers and her husband’s. Upon the marriage, the trust that oversaw her inheritance had ended. Fitzwilliam and Anne Darcy were the new master and mistress of Rosings; Lady Catherine de Bourgh was merely their representative now. She would continue to rule over the great house, and everyone expected nothing much to change in the daily running of the household, but her word was no longer the final decree. That privilege now belonged to Mrs. Anne Darcy.
Despite the change in circumstances, two women were very happy and very much relieved. For so long, both had lived in anticipation of this momentous day. Lady Catherine watched with pleasure as her new son-in-law took his bride away. Maggie Stuart too looked at the scene with fondness. Each had the same thought as the carriage drove away.
If, in spite of all their careful planning, the truth of Anne’s birth came to light, she would be safe. Fitzwilliam Darcy would stand by his wife.
End of Part II