Research is amazing! While writing a short story, I needed to know the difference between a shot, a jigger, and a shooter. After reading too much about the subject, I ended up cutting the scene. However, the information stayed with me.
I got to thinking about my short, short stories I have posted on a fanfiction website and here on this site. They are “shot” sized that are read by thousands of individuals each month.
For an author, these shots are like a palate cleanser between long stories. While my latest is at the editors, I wrote one today. Would you like to read it? Please remember that it’s completely unedited. In fact, I’ve only just finished it and have NOT reread it for any errors. If you are willing to take a chance on a first draft, here is “The Demise of a Great Lady”.
“The Demise of a Great Lady: A Pride & Prejudice Story Shot”
Copyright © 2022 by Joy D. King
Cover design: getcovers.com
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems – except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews – without permission in writing from its publisher Joy D. King.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, locations, and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Act One – Scene One
“It was an accident.” Mr. William Collins, parson to the illustrious Lady Catherine de Bourgh had been turned away from his patroness’ estate Rosings Park, by the lady’s butler with specific instructions that he was not to be allowed inside. By the time Mr. Collins returned to the parsonage, he was a wreck. Digging into his pocket, his hands shaking, he set two small vials next to each other on the table. “The arsenic was intended to kill a rat that invaded Lady Catherine’s pantry. It was a large rat. The other vial contains an imported honey I purchase when I am in London. Lady Catherine likes to take it in her tea on special occasions.” He wrung his hands as he paced, “This is in every way horrible. I am guilty in the sight of God and my esteemed patroness. What are we to do?”
Elizabeth Bennet’s mouth gaped open at the news. Good heavens! Her father’s cousin had killed Lady Catherine? What a terrible chain of events. Arsenic when put in a hot beverage such as tea would dissolve and be imperceptible to the drinker.
While Charlotte, Mr. Collins’ wife and Elizabeth’s close friend, attempted to comfort the distraught man, Elizabeth chose to temporarily remove herself from the parsonage where she had been staying. Allowing Mr. Collins and Charlotte time alone to come to terms with a potential change to their future was something for the two of them to decide. Her opinion was not needed.
Hurrying to her room, she gathered her outer clothes and walked towards the park. Mr. Collins was not the only one who needed to compose himself. Elizabeth’s exchanges with the grand lady had been barely less than volatile. Lady Catherine held strong opinions about how a young lady of reduced means should comport herself. Elizabeth found these opinions to be offensive, barely restraining herself from lashing out to correct the mistress of Rosings Park.
It had been the same when Lady Catherine’s nephew stayed with his friend, Charles Bingley, at the neighboring estate to Elizabeth’s home in Hertfordshire. Mr. Darcy was as haughty and convinced of his own brilliance as Lady Catherine was of hers.
They were a family of wealth and power; Elizabeth would give them that. Lady Catherine was the daughter of an earl and the widow of a baronet. That same earl was Mr. Darcy’s grandfather through his mother, who was Lady Catherine’s deceased younger sister.
Suspecting that Mr. Darcy cut his milk teeth chewing on diamonds and rubies instead of twisted fabric pieces tied into knots, Elizabeth would never understand how privilege equaled entitlement in the minds of the rich.
At his first public appearance, Mr. Darcy had personally insulted her then offended the entire population of the farming community she where she grew up. His tall figure and lofty countenance had sealed his reputation for being prideful.
Before she reached the gate leading to the glen, one of the servants from Rosings Park rushed to the parsonage door.
Elizabeth waited until the note was taken to Charlotte to see if she would be needed. When her friend waved her back to the house, Elizabeth returned.
“You will never guess,” Charlotte began, her eyes red rimmed from crying. “Lady Catherine’s nephews, Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, arrived last evening after hearing that the great lady was ill.” Charlotte clasped her hand. “This is in every way terrible, Lizzy. I fear Mr. Darcy will see us removed from our home. For this, I cannot blame him. Despite my husband’s mix-up being unintentional, it still happened.”
“What will happen to Rosings Park?” Elizabeth asked.
“It will go to Anne.” Charlotte pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve.
“Lady Catherine’s daughter?” Elizabeth was stunned. “She is far too ill, is she not? For heaven’s sake, Charlotte! Although we have been in the great house several times, she is so timid and reticent that I quite forgot she was there.”
“Do not worry about Anne. Now that Mr. Darcy is here and she will inherit the property, I suspect they will wed as soon as it is deemed proper by society.” Charlotte blotted her tears. “We can only hope he will be merciful.”
“Mr. Darcy? Never!” Elizabeth insisted.
Poor Charlotte. And poor Mr. Collins. He was not a mean sort. Rather, he bumbled along with most everything he undertook except for his garden. When he turned his hand to the soil, crops flourished under his care.
Brushing away a frond that had attached itself to her skirt, Elizabeth said, “I thank you for letting me know, my friend. If Colonel Fitzwilliam is the same as his cousin, I shall attempt to avoid them both.”
Act Two – Scene One
Elizabeth heard the men’s voices before she saw them. Peeking around the trunk of a stately oak, she identified Mr. Darcy. The other man was garbed in a soldier’s uniform. They were equal in height but differed in the color of their hair. Mr. Darcy’s was dark brown. The colonel’s hair was much lighter.
Deciding that the best course was a hasty retreat, Mr. Darcy’s words caught Elizabeth’s attention as she was turning away from them.
“Coming to Rosings will never be the same.”
The man sat on the trunk of a fallen tree. His cousin placed his hand on Mr. Darcy’s shoulder.
“I am sorry, Darce. She was cherished by all of us. Yet, I know how much Lady meant to you in particular.”
Mr. Darcy nodded, wiping his cheeks. “I remember…I must have been twelve because it was shortly after Mama died, that Lady sensed my sadness and came to comfort me each night after the house quieted. I do not know how I could have survived those months without her caring presence. After Father died, although I was a young man, she did the same.”
“She always knew when you were distressed, Darcy. Me too.” The colonel stepped back from his cousin. “When I returned from France with my leg wound, she barely left my side. Of course, she made her rounds of Rosings to determine all was in order. Still, she was most attentive to me.”
“I will deeply miss the lady of the house. She was imposing to most but gentle with those she loved. There will never be the like,” Mr. Darcy said before clearing his throat. “Remember how eagerly she awaited our arrival? She could barely stand still until we were greeted with affection.”
“Darce, what I remembered was that when the two of us were in the same room, she always favored you,” the colonel admitted. “I figured it was because behind your imposing facade, you are as gentle as she was.” He chuckled, “Do you remember when, oh, I cannot recall the ladies’ names, but they came to Rosings Park to meet the new master of Pemberley. They were determined to become Mrs. Darcy. Lady chased them off and we never heard from them again.”
Mr. Darcy laughed; a sound so foreign to Elizabeth’s ears that she startled. What surprised her even more was how easily it came to him. Knowing him as she did, Elizabeth had assumed it would sound rusty from disuse.
He smiled, and she almost sighed aloud. He was particularly handsome wearing that expression. She peered as closely as she could without revealing herself. His face had not cracked at the cheeks from the expression.
Who was this man who smiled and laughed? The colonel claimed he was gentle? How could that be? Certainly, he looked like Mr. Darcy and sounded like him, but it was impossible to equate the man in the glen with the dour, sour man who had visited Hertfordshire.
“Richard, do you recall the time the Lady decided it was time for Georgiana to learn to walk? Georgie was not yet a year old and Lady pulled her around the room by her leading strings until my sweet sister almost dropped from exhaustion. Yet, by the time they were done, Georgie could not only walk, she could also run. Her nurses cursed Lady every time they could not catch her.”
The men’s throaty laughter reverberated from one end of the glen to the other.
“I do remember. Your father complained that it was much easier to travel by carriage when she could only crawl. He vowed to not return to Rosings Park until Georgie was ready to wed.”
“There has been so much loss, Richard.” Mr. Darcy’s chin dropped as his hands hung down between his knees.
He was the picture of a broken man. Even the colonel’s shoulders drooped.
Elizabeth stepped back to allow the men their privacy.
Slowly, she walked the pathway back to the parsonage. What she had learned was a revelation. Lady Catherine had been tender, almost motherly to both men. Elizabeth would never have guessed it. The matron was all hard edges and iron, like her nephew.
Yet, Mr. Darcy wept for his loss, his feelings far deeper for another human being than Elizabeth would have ever guess.
Poor Mr. Darcy. Poor Colonel Fitzwilliam. If their cousin, Anne de Bourgh, had received the same sort of treatment from her mother, she, too, would be distraught. Poor Miss de Bourgh.
Elizabeth’s own heart ached for the family. That she felt anything other than disdain for Mr. Darcy surprised her. Whatever did it mean?
Act Two – Scene Two
Elizabeth was most disappointed with herself. She had judged Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine as being bereft of empathy, their hearts frozen through and through. She had been completely wrong.
Until that moment, she thought she knew herself. Yet, in reality, she was a fraud. Her pride in her ability to accurately sketch characters was a sham.
Ignoring the beauty around her, she considered her best course of action. It was too soon to return to Charlotte. She could not go back to the glen and trespass on the men’s mourning. No, what she could do was become a better person, one who was less judgmental and prejudiced against the man from Derbyshire or anyone else. Who was she but a twenty-year-old miss from Hertfordshire with little experience of people outside her community?
She learned a valuable lesson in that glen. When Mr. Darcy loved, he loved deeply.
Elizabeth shook her head. While she would not have thought it of him, it was undeniable.
Choosing to look for the positive, she added this new development to what she already knew about the man. First and foremost, he was exceedingly handsome. Even when she loathed him, she could admit he was a pleasure to gaze upon. He was reputed to have one of the largest estates in England. He was master of all he owned. He knew how to laugh. And he had a heart that beat just as hers did.
Act Two – Scene Three
“Is Mr. Collins well?” Elizabeth asked after wandering the pathways of Rosings Park for hours.
Charlotte shrugged. “I am not certain. He vacillates between removing ourselves from Kent to stay with my parents to writing a eulogy he can offer as his last service to the great Lady before we leave for Meryton.”
“Your husband is a kind man, Charlotte.”
As she patted her friend’s shoulder, Elizabeth realized it was another situation where she had harshly judged someone else. Elizabeth had not been kind in her rejection of Mr. Collins’ proposal and had berated Charlotte for accepting him the following day. Where once Elizabeth had thought Mr. Collins would be the worst husband ever, his treatment of Charlotte had proved her wrong.
“That he is, Lizzy. He is also a dutiful man.” Charlotte shook her head. “He will never be able to forgive himself for causing harm to someone he held in deep respect. I cannot know how he will be able to go on.”
“I am terribly sorry.” Elizabeth wondered if there was anything she could do to help the situation. “Perhaps if we offered to hear what your husband has prepared in case he is called upon to speak, it might ease his anxiety.”
Charlotte jumped up. “What a marvelous plan. I shall ask him right away.”
Deep inside, Elizabeth groaned. William Collins was generally a bore to listen to as he tended to drone on and on from the pulpit. Nevertheless, she would do this for him and for Charlotte.”
The man came bustling into the room, papers falling from his hand. Charlotte followed closely, retrieving many before they could hit the floor.
“I thank you, Cousin Elizabeth. You cannot know what a relief it is to my heart to have you and my dear wife sit as my audience while I speak of the great lady of Rosings Park.” Moving to stand in front of the fireplace, he started and stopped several times, before he finally set aside the stack of parchment, closed his eyes, and began to speak.
“I am a most undeserving man. Yet, the Great Lady of Rosings Park saw something in me I never saw inside myself. With her gentle support, my life was lifted from the mundane to a wonderful life with my beautiful wife, Charlotte in a home grander than my dreams. The Great Lady cajoled me, supported me, and commanded me. I listened and I obeyed.”
He rocked back on his heels, his eyes open, his face to the heavens. “I will not cry bitter tears at her passing for a future awaits the great lady beyond her imagination. With her loss,” his chin dipped, his eyes closing, his head shaking. “With her loss, my purpose is to take those lessons she taught me and become the man she insisted I could be.” His eyes blinked, “I will never…” Mr. Collin’s eyes shot wide open. “Mr. Darcy! Colonel Fitzwilliam, I was…I was…welcome to my home.”
Elizabeth and Charlotte looked to the door to discover both men. They both bowed.
Colonel Fitzwilliam said, “I beg your pardon for interrupting your kind words about Lady. Your maid showed us in. I take it she did not announce us.”
Mr. Collins sputtered as Charlotte and Elizabeth stood.
“Do come in,” Charlotte replied. “I will order tea from that same maid. We can hope she is more attentive with the tray.”
The colonel smiled. Mr. Darcy glanced between Elizabeth and Mr. Collins.
“Pardon me,” he began. “Did you know Lady?”
“Know her,” Mr. Collins boasted. “We were quite close.”
Mr. Darcy nodded. “That is good to hear. Aunt Catherine and Anne are not fond of dogs, particularly Lady since my uncle brought her to Rosings shortly before his death.”
“Dog!” Mr. Collins blurted at the same time as Elizabeth whispered, “dog?”
Act Three – Scene One
“You thought Lady Catherine died?” the colonel asked as both Mr. Collins and Elizabeth attempted to compose themselves.
“She did not?” Charlotte entered the room, immediately grabbing her husband’s arms as his knees gave way beneath him, softening his total collapse to the floor.
“Not at all.” Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy helped him to a sofa as Charlotte ran for her salts.
Elizabeth stepped to the side, her hand at her mouth. “Sirs, I apologize for the misunderstanding.” Inside, she was reeling. The mistress of Rosings Park was alive and well. This meant that the future of Mr. and Mrs. Collins was settled. “When my host heard the great lady had passed, he feared he mixed up a brown bottle of honey with poison used in the pantry.”
The colonel snorted. “I fear it would take far more than a small bottle of arsenic to topple our aunt.”
“Richard!” Mr. Darcy cautioned.
“You know the truth of it, Darce. Strangers look at you and believe you have no give to you. However, anyone who truly knows you is convinced there is no kinder, compassionate person on the planet. Our aunt, on the other hand, is frozen in her thinking and feelings. It would take a cannon ball to fell her to the ground.”
Mr. Darcy ran his hand through his hair. “Be that as it may, we should keep that information to ourselves.” He paused, his hand at the back of his neck. “No, I am wrong. Mrs. Collins as well as Miss Elizabeth are astute. They have likely experienced firsthand our aunt’s unwillingness to consider someone else’s opinions. There is no reason to hide what she is from them.”
Elizabeth was stunned. Mr. Darcy admitted he was wrong? He thought she was astute? Who was this man?
As soon as Mr. Collins regained consciousness, the gentlemen seated themselves on the opposite sofa. While Charlotte poured their tea, Elizabeth surreptitiously studied both men. The colonel appeared relaxed, his legs crossed at the knee, arms resting on the chair, his fingers brushing lint from his knee. Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, was tightly strung. His posture was erect, his hands gripping the chair, his gaze looked between her and her hosts.
“Pray allow me to tell you about Lady, if you will.” The colonel grinned. “As a pup, she was full of mischief. From her earliest days she would follow Darcy around like his shadow. It must have been…fourteen years since she was born?”
“Sixteen,” Mr. Darcy corrected. “My sister Georgiana was born the same week as Lady. My mother, she…she did not survive the birth.” He swallowed. “My sister, her nurse, and I were sent to Lady Catherine by my father not four weeks later. I missed my mother terribly. I desired nothing more than to return to my home. And then I met Lady.” He smiled at his memories. “She was, as Richard said, a rascal. There were six other pups in the litter. Her mother had little energy for her. Aunt Catherine insisted the groom caring for the dogs get rid of her. From the first time she licked at my fingers, I was determined to keep her alive. Therefore, I snuck her into my bedchamber, used the servants’ stairs to gather food from the kitchen, and attempted to teach her manners. In the process, the pup gave me reason to wake each morning and find joy despite my circumstances.”
“I do not understand.” Elizabeth asked, “If Lady Catherine did not want Lady, why did she keep her here at Rosings Park when you returned to Pemberley?”
“Ah, Miss Elizabeth, you have reached the crux of the matter.” The colonel shook his head. “You were correct that Aunt Catherine had no appreciation for a fine animal like Lady. However, she realized how attached Darcy was. Therefore, she kept the dog here as a means of making sure her favored nephew returned each year. After all, what else would bring a young lad back to a place like this?”
“Blackmail?” Elizabeth was horrified on Mr. Darcy’s behalf. “Your own aunt used a beloved pet as a hostage to extort time from you? How terrible for you.”
Mr. Darcy’s cheeks reddened. “Do not be concerned. Lady was worth any sacrifice on my part.”
“Then please accept my sincerest condolences for your loss, sir. The loyalty of a canine companion is more than gold.” Elizabeth now saw the man in a new light. He had feelings like everyone else.
Mr. Darcy leaned forward. “Did you have a beloved pet, Miss Elizabeth?”
Charlotte chortled. “Penny-Pie, an ugly barn cat that hated everyone except Lizzy.”
Elizabeth felt the heat creeping up her neck. “She was special.”
Snorting, Charlotte added, “She was especially evil, you mean.”
“Penny-Pie?” Mr. Darcy’s brow arched. “Quite an unusual name.”
“Her name was supposed to be Penelope but Lydia, who at the time was two years of age, could not say it correctly. My youngest sister was enthralled with the cat, who avoided her like the plague. Lydia would chase her around the yard yelling, Penny-Pie. The cat got away, but the name stuck, I am afraid.”
Laughter filled the room.
Elizabeth watched Mr. Darcy as he relaxed back into his seat. His mirth lightened his countenance and drew her eyes to the handsomeness of his face, which fairly robbed her of her breath. Again, she could not help but ask, who was this man?
Act Four – Scene One
On the day following, Elizabeth strolled to the glen. She had knelt to smell the fragrant spring flowers when she heard boots crunching against the gravel. Standing quickly, she turned to see Mr. Darcy approaching her. This time, instead of dread at seeing him, her apprehension was slight.
“Miss Elizabeth. I see you are enjoying the season,” he greeted her.
“I am, sir.” She hesitated. “I must ask, are you well?”
Gesturing down the lane, he waited until she took a step before moving alongside her. “I thank you for your inquiry. To answer honestly, I will confess to you alone that there is a measure of relief at having Lady gone. For several years, she has been unable to bound up and down the stairs or chase anything that moved. I believe that was her greatest love. As well, she could not eat the foods that formerly brought her delight, which was also a love. Finally, the joy of being welcomed by her each year was mitigated by the separation that always followed. According to the man who cared for her, Lady mourned when I left. The months in between my coming to Kent were seeming longer and longer to her. It was painful to watch her attempt to jump and play.”
“I am terribly grieved to hear this, Mr. Darcy.”
“I thank you. I sincerely appreciate your sympathy.” He dipped his head to her. “She held on until I arrived and died in my arms. I console myself that Lady is no longer suffering the ravages of old age. She is finally at peace.”
Elizabeth knew not what to say. Never would she have guessed that this man would speak of matters that touched his heart. Surprisingly, hers was touched because of his sharing.
Finally, she asked, “Will you be coming to Kent next year?”
He scoffed. “My aunt no longer has power over me. I will not allow her attempts to plan my future or undermine my authority. I will not bend to her insistence that I marry Anne.” He stopped, turning toward her. “My interests lie elsewhere.”
“They…do?” The intensity of his stare unnerved her. What did he mean by this? Her? Was it possible? No, of course not.
“Miss Elizabeth, you must allow me to tell you how much…”
“Darcy!” Colonel Fitzwilliam approached at a run. “You must come. Lady Catherine is not breathing. The apothecary has been called. Come!”
He looked between his cousin and her. Bowing quickly, Mr. Darcy said, “Pardon me.” Then he ran.
Act Four – Scene Two
Charlotte was convinced that Mr. Darcy had intended to propose. Elizabeth lacked the confidence of her friend.
As soon as Elizabeth informed them of the emergency at Rosings Park, Mr. Collins hurried to be of assistance.
“Charlotte, I must confess to being in error about your husband. I failed to see in him the qualities that were obvious to you.” Elizabeth huffed. “I have been blind.”
The look her friend bore was serene confidence at knowing the truth of a situation. “It is nearly impossible to not care deeply for a man who is fully devoted to their marriage.” Charlotte reached over to place her hand on Elizabeth’s arm, gaining her complete attention. “Perhaps, Lizzy, you might need to consider whether you have been blind to a certain gentleman from Derbyshire. For where you thought him critical of you, I saw interest. Where you were convinced that he was arrogant, I realized he is often put upon to repair the mistakes of others. Lady Catherine speaks of his honor and duty as an integral part of his character. Yet, you judge him as worthy of ridicule. I ask you now, are you so certain he is the man you believe him to be?”
“I hardly know.” Elizabeth carefully considered the question. “You are correct that I assumed he had no heart. Nevertheless, his response to the loss of Lady openly displayed his tender feelings.”
“Pray, consider this, Lizzy. What of the way he responds to the pressure Lady Catherine puts upon him to marry Anne? Does he rail at her? Scorn her? Berate her? Belligerently disregard her? He does not. Rather, he tolerates something that has to be exceedingly offensive to him while still treating her with respect. Is this not the mark of a true gentlemen?”
“What of his conduct in Meryton?” Even as she said the words, Elizabeth knew she was not as angry as she had been. “He hurt my feelings.”
“That he did, I will admit. I do not excuse his conduct since a gentleman would never refer to a lady as merely tolerable where others could hear.” Charlotte slid her hand from Elizabeth’s arm. “With that said, I ask you, was it not from your own mouth that you publicly shared his error with anyone who would listen? Could Mr. Darcy claim that you, in turn, hurt his feelings if he knew what you said? Again, I remind you that Lady Catherine is quick to call out anyone who lacks honor. She has never done this with her nephew. Please keep in mind the difference between gossip and slander. One is idle news. The other, more serious flaw is a deliberate statement that damages a person’s reputation. Lizzy, his insult at the assembly was a rash statement made without thought. Yours was an effort to turn others against him. Would you want him to hold this against you forever?”
Elizabeth was stunned. Her chest throbbed; her palms were moist. She wanted to be sick. “In every word you are correct.” Goodness! Who was she to call out Mr. Darcy for having a bad night? She had campaigned against any perception of him as a gentleman. “I am a horrible person, Charlotte Collins.”
“No. No, you are not.” Charlotte sat back in her chair. “You are an imperfect person, as is Mr. Darcy. He mistakenly spoke. You mistakenly chose to vilify him.”
She cupped her face in her palms. “I owe him an apology. Oh, Charlotte, he will hate me for this.”
With a twinkle in her eye, Charlotte asked, “Would it truly bother you if he did? Because if it did, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, I will state plainly that your heart is more tied up in his than you have admitted to me, and likely, to yourself.”
Elizabeth’s arms clasped her middle as her mind spun with the facts. “How did you get so wise, my friend?”
“Hah! I have seven years more than you do of not thinking before I speak. It is a lesson hard to learn. I admit that I am a work in progress, as are you.” Charlotte smiled. “Lizzy, please do this one thing for yourself; when Mr. Darcy speaks, listen not only to the words he says, but attempt to determine his motive for saying them. His eyes follow you as you move about a room. They stay on you when you are seated. He has walked toward you many times only to have you avoid him. He loves you, Lizzy. I promise.”
“Me?” Her hands went to her chest.
How was it possible? Her chin dropped to her chest. She was a blind woman who was unable to see.
Act Four – Scene Three
The next morning, Elizabeth was pleased to see Mr. Darcy waiting in the glen. He had a posy of flowers in his hand.
Charlotte’s pointed discussion had robbed Elizabeth of peaceful slumber. Instead, she examined every interaction she had with the man from Derbyshire only to realize before dawn began to break that she knew far less about people than she claimed. How humbling!
Lady Catherine was also humbled. Exotic Medjool dates from the Mediterranean were here favorite treat. After stuffing more than one into her mouth, she choked. A swift blow between her shoulder blades from Rosing’s cook, launched the fruit across the table to land at the foot of her nephew. According to Mr. Collins, she excused herself and did not return the rest of the evening.
“Miss Elizabeth, how are you fairing this lovely morning?” Mr. Darcy handed her the flowers.
“I am well, thank you.” She inhaled the fragrance of the narcissus—her favorites. “Sir…I was wondering…if you do not think me too bold…”
“Yes?” His face expressed eager anticipation.
“What breed was Lady?”
She wanted to giggle at his surprised expression.
“If you are thinking she was a regal breed then you would be incorrect. Lady had patches of brown and black on her white fur, short legs, a long body, a fluffy tail, and a deep bark that sounded like she lived in a cavern. She was a mixture of indeterminable parentage.” He paused. “Why do you ask?”
Smiling to herself, Elizabeth knew her newfound opinion of Mr. Darcy was correct. He was not too proud. He could love less than perfect. Perhaps Charlotte was correct, he could love her too.
“Mr. Darcy, I have no black or brown spots, no white fur, long legs instead of short, and no fluffy tail. My bark, I fear, has been inconsistent. On occasion, it has been cruel. For this, I apologize.”
As he considered her words, he turned to face her. “You cannot claim to be the only one in error, Elizabeth. I, too, have been unkind.”
The use of her personal name gave her boldness. Raising her chin so she could see directly into his eyes, she said, “I would like to hear what you intended to say yesterday, if you would not mind?”
He leaned closer, his smile rendering him particularly handsome. Tilting his head to the side, his eyes lowered to her mouth.
Instinctively, her lips parted.
“Marry me, please?”
She blinked. Her smile matched his. “Since you asked so politely, I suppose I must.”
Closing the distance between them was the work of a moment.
He was…Goodness! Lightning could have struck her, and she would not have noticed.
Act Five – Conclusion
Darcy and Elizabeth stood by the mound of freshly turned earth. A wooden sign with Lady painted in dark blue was at the top border.
“Fitzwilliam, your tender affection for Lady was what finally opened my eyes so I could see your wonderful qualities. I wished I had known the great Lady.”
“She would have loved you, Elizabeth.”
“I am sure the grand Lady will forever live in your heart.” Elizabeth’s fingers found Mr. Darcy’s.
“Elizabeth, you are the grandest of all ladies. It is only you who will live in my heart forever.”
“Papa, look! We have one, two, three, four…no, five new puppies.”
“And one very exhausted mother.” Darcy lifted his son away from where Lucy had chosen to have her pups. Normally a very friendly animal who was patient with the four-year-old heir to the Darcy family, Lucy was distracted by the wiggling spotted masses attempting to have their supper.
“Papa, when Mama brings home another baby, can this one have four legs and a tail too?”
“You do not want another sister?”
“I do not! It took forever for her to learn to walk. She cannot even run. Maybe you could give her to Lucy, and I would take one of the puppies.”
“You would, would you?”
Darcy had been wrong when he claimed Elizabeth would be the only one in his heart. He discovered upon the birth of his two children that the vital organ that beat in his chest expanded to welcome his family. He adored his daughter. He cherished his son. He even liked Lucy. But his great Lady would always be Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, his wife.