When she woke up in the morning, she found herself alone in her bed. The sun was high in the sky... She realised with surprise, she had overslept. Back at Longbourn, she always rose early, before anyone else. The house was rarely as quiet as it was at that time of the day, and that had been incentive enough to leave sleep behind. And in the more recent months, she had awoken early more out of necessity.
She stretched and sat up. Maybe the journey really had tired her out more than she had realised. She didn't remember when she had last slept so long or so well. She looked over to the side of the bed her husband had slept on. The sheets were wrinkled and the impression of his head was visible on the pillow. She wondered if he had held her hand all through the night... If she had woken up before him, she could've known.
Slowly, she got out of bed and walked to her dressing room, where she was greeted by Grace.
"Good morning, Mrs. Darcy."
She smiled at her. "Good morning, Grace. Do you know where Mr. Darcy is?"
"He is in his study, Ma'am, but he will be joining you for breakfast."
Elizabeth got dressed quickly with Grace's help and proceeded down to breakfast. Fitzwilliam was already waiting for her. He smiled warmly when he saw her and got up from his chair at the head of the table to welcome her in.
"Good morning, Elizabeth. I hope you slept well."
He looked very handsome this morning, dressed in dark blue. It complemented his blue eyes. And his smile only added to the whole affect. She smiled in return and replied. "I did, thank you. Hope you did as well."
"I did. Shall we?" he said, gesturing towards the side table where the breakfast spread had been laid out. Elizabeth followed him and filled up her plate from the ridiculously large amount of available options. The food was delicious though and she ended up eating a lot more than she had thought she would.
Over their tea afterwards, Fitzwilliam spoke.
"I thought we could begin our tour of the house directly after breakfast."
"That sounds perfect."
He nodded with a smile and and took her arm as they left the table. He guided her to first to a pretty room towards the back of the house and announced it as the morning room.
"You may use it as your personal study of sorts. To take care of you correspondence or meetings with staff. The desk has been stocked with some writing supplies."
The room seemed to be the most beautifuly furnished she has seen in the house so far. The walls, the furnishings, the drapes all had delicate floral patterns that complemented each other perfectly. And it seemed all rooms in Pemberly benefitted from the numerous windows. The bright glow of the sunny day seemed to make the room light up from within.
"Oh, this is lovely, Fitzwilliam! This is the most beautiful room I've seen yet," she confessed truthfully.
"This room hasn't seen much use since my mother passed away. She decorated it expressly for her own use. But if you'd like to change anything—"
But Elizabeth interrupted him, "I wouldn't dream of changing anything in here... It is so delightful just as it is." And she was gratified to see the smile on his face on hearing these words.
Next, he showed her to his study which was located right next to the morning room. So she imagined, that's how their mornings would be. Tending to their respective tasks in adjacent rooms. The study was a handsome room, with a large desk commanding the attention at once.
"It is a bit cluttered at the moment," he spoke a little self-consciously, when he saw her staring at the desk. "Since I'm returning after a while, I need to look over all these records over the next week", he said pointing to all the documents spread across the desk.
"You go through all the records personally?"
"In a matter of speaking, yes. But I can't attend to all of them with equal level of detail. I can do a bare overview of most."
That still sounded like a humongous undertaking to her. He must stay very busy, she surmised.
Their tour of the house continued, through the drawing rooms, the parlors, the galleries, the art room, the music room. In the portrait gallery on the first floor, they stood in front of a portrait of his parents for a long while, as he talked at some length with fondness in his voice of how his parents had built a successful marriage based on a childhood friendship. The Darcy's of Pemberly and the Earls of Matlock had had a long friendship, and the two had been companions almost since birth. The portraits had been made soon after their wedding and Elizabeth thought the painter had done a remarkable job at capturing the happiness of their expressions, you could almost sense the love in the way they held themselves, the way his hand was placed on her shoulder, and the way she was leaning towards him. Aloud, she spoke of how alike he looked to his father and Georgiana to her mother.
"Georgiana loves to hear herself compared favorably to mother," was his reply.
"And what do you think of being compared to your father?"
"My father was a very handsome man, so your compliment has been felt greatly."
They smiled at each other and he lead her to a pair of portraits placed at some distance to the portrait of his parents. Upon seeing the faces in these paintings, she exclaimed, "Why Mr. Darcy! You've been saving the best for last!"
He almost blushed at her reaction, and cleared his throat before speaking. "This one Georgiana stood for when she turned fifteen," he said pointing to the panting on the left. "And this one she forced me to stand for after hers was completed."
"Don't underestimate the powers of my sister."
Elizabeth laughed at the dramatic way he spoke these words, and his expression eased into a smile as well.
"But why this empty space? Why not place these paintings next your parents'?"
"Oh, that was— Georgiana had this idea that the next Mr. and Mrs. Darcy should be placed here."
"Oh dear, are you going to make me stand for a portrait?"
"Only if you wish to. But, I believe once Georgiana is back, we both might not be given an option," he spoke with a mild frown upon his brow.
Elizabeth laughed again, and he couldn't help but join in. He took her arm and started leading her out of the portrait gallery, as their laughter faded. But a gleam in his eyes remained and he spoke.
"Come, I did save the best for last."
She raised her brows, "What is it?"
But he only smiled and did not reply. They walked on to the other side of the house from the gallery, on the same floor and he led her to a pair of very grand looking doors. He left her arm and pushed the doors open with a flourish. And when she got her first look at the room beyond, she actually gasped.
"The Pemberly library", he announced with a wide smile, as she slowly crossed the threshold. She had never seen so many books in one place, not even at the London bookstores she had visited with the Gardiners. The library stretched across two floors with shelves upon shelves of books. High up near the ceiling, there were windows that allowed light to enter into the room. And near the entrance where she was currently standing, was the reading area with cozy chairs and plush sofas and a grand fireplace. She spun round and round trying to take in all of her surroundings. When she stopped and looked at him, she knew she was smiling more widely than she had done in ages.
"I think I'm in heaven."
He laughed at her words and walked over to the corner where a desk stood, gesturing her to follow. As she came closer, she saw that next to the desk was the crate of books she had brought with her from Longbourn.
"These are your father's books. I wanted to ask you if you would like to keep all of them together in a separate case or should they be placed amongst all the other books?" He gestured vaguely towards all the shelves surrounding them.
She looked around once more and spoke with a smile, "No, a separate case won't be needed. This library is their new home, and I dare say they would love it as much as I do."
He smiled. "Alright, then. I believe there are a few books in here whose duplicates are already here. We can send the Pemberly copies to the house in London, there's a smaller library there."
"Whatever you feel is best."
He nodded, and then spoke warmly. "We can head to luncheon now and then I have a meeting with Mr. Willis." Mr. Willis was the Pemberly steward. Fitzwilliam continued, "You can return here, while I'm engaged, if you'd like."
"I'd certainly like to."
He smiled good naturedly and they made their way out of the library. After the meal and an introduction with Mr. Willis, Elizabeth did return to the library, and quite lost the track of time as she wandered among the shelves. She began making a list of all the books she saw that she wanted to read, but the list grew too long and she headed to the desk wishing to write it all down. But even that list grew too long... She looked around herself, and couldn't quite believe that this whole library was at her disposal. It made her almost giddy. She selected one book, but before starting it, she first decided to write some letters. She sat at the corner desk and wrote to her mother, to Jane and Charlotte. Putting them aside, she made her way to one of the armchairs and settled down with the volume she had picked out.
And this is how Fitzwilliam found her when he entered the library a few hours later. She was sitting comfortably, with one foot tucked under her. On hearing the door she looked up and smiled when she saw him. For a moment, he seemed frozen at the door, staring at her with an unreadable expression. But presently, he gathered himself and started walking up to her.
She closed shut the book and was about to stand but he gestured her to stop with the words, "No, stay stay."
So she settled back in her relaxed posture, still smiling at him. He sat in a chair nearby, looking a little disconcerted, and cleared his throat before he spoke carefully, "You make a beautiful picture, sitting this way."
She smiled even more widely at such a direct compliment.
"Thank you, William."
He smiled finally. "Did you have a pleasant time?"
"Very much so. How was your meeting?"
"It took longer than expected, but we managed to get through a lot of work."
Elizabeth nodded. For a moment they stayed silent, and then he spoke.
"Don't let me distract you from your reading." He looked around at the shelves and said, "I will read something too."
Elizabeth returned to her book and he soon joined her with a book of his own. But she noticed from the corner of her eyes that his attentions were more focused on her than his book. Eventually she looked up at him with a smile, and spoke, "You know what this reminds me of?"
His response was immediate. "Netherfield?"
Indeed that was what she had been about to say, but the soft fervor with which he had delivered his reply, erased the funny quip that had been on the tip of her tongue, about how he had disapproved of her back then. Instead, she tried to match his tone and just said, "Yes."
"I always wanted to show you the library at Pemberly. I knew you would appreciate it greatly."
"Then, sir, let me appreciate it by returning to my book." She smiled, to let him know she was just teasing.
"I apologise", he replied with a small laugh and then focused his eyes back towards the page, and so did she. But instead of the words on the page, now she was pondering over a possibility that had never crossed her mind before. That even all those months ago, the stares he had frequently directed towards her, may have been of admiration, not disapproval.