Chapter 19

Jane's POV

She had managed to get through all of the clothing that needed mending, so she folded them and left them for the maid. Jane always felt very satisfied when she could be of use to her aunt and uncle; they had ever been so supportive of Lizzy and her. She went looking for Lizzy, who had decided to take the day to read, but maybe she could persuade her to talk for a bit.

She found her reading a letter with tears on her eyes. "What is wrong, Lizzy?"

"Father has written." Those were the last words that Jane expected to come out of Lizzy's lips. The relationship with their father had been tense since they had decided to take steps about their future.

"Why did you not tell me that he had written to us before you read it?" Guilt appeared on her face, and she did not need for Lizzy to answer to know why.

"It was addressed only to me." The confirmation didn't make her feel any better. It shouldn't surprise her, Lizzy had always been the apple of his eye. Lydia and Jane had been their mother's, but Lizzy had been her father's undisputed favorite. If his father was taking steps to reach out, it was to be expected that it would be to Lizzy. But she could confess to herself that she was somewhat hurt.

"I am sorry, Jane, I was so anxious about the contents that I never stopped to think that it might upset you."

"It is not your fault Lizzy."

"Do you wish to read it?" Jane was not sure that she wanted to, now that she knew it was only addressed to Lizzy. She took it, in the end, hoping it might have good news. As Jane read it, she understood why it had moved Lizzy to tears. She had never imagined such words coming out of their father. Hope bloomed deep in her chest; to have their father's support was a great relief even at a distance. It also meant that Mrs. Taylor would have more reinforcement with Lydia.

"I will admit to being a bit hurt that the letter was only addressed to you, but I am happy about the contents."

"Oh, Jane, I was so happy and moved that father was finally reaching out and understanding what we needed that-"

"You do not need to feel guilty, Lizzy; it is not your fault, and as you say, it is good news. Mary and Kitty will have more support, and he might even be able to force Lydia to listen to Mrs. Taylor. We could and have been doing this without papa, but it will be much easier to do with his support and approval. It also warms my heart to see his care, even if he only knows how to express it to you."

"Do you wish to write to him with me?"

"There is no need; maybe if he starts to get more comfortable writing to you again, he will reach out to me. He was also never a great correspondent, to begin with."

"That is true."

Lizzy's POV

Their quiet relaxing day had done wonders for Lizzy, and she woke up the next day refreshed and full of energy. Tomorrow would be the Matlock ball, their first ball since their arrival at London, and what a first ball it would be. Their clothes had arrived, and Jane, Aunt Gardiner, and her were going to spend all evening planning. They would try out their dresses, different accessories, and would have their maids try different hairstyles. Aunt Gardiner had managed to gather a lot of information about the ball that they would go through.

What Lizzy was not expecting that day was Miss Darcy and Mr. Darcy coming to pay them a call. Their acquaintance with Miss Darcy had gotten closer and warmer since their initial meeting. Lizzy was very fond of her and found her sweet and shy, but she did not seem shy this time. She was very excited about the Matlock ball.

"I will confess I do not feel I am still prepared to be out in society and attend the ball myself, but I am happy that you will be attending. You can tell me all about it the next time we see each other; my brother never has much to tell me."

"I have no talent in describing balls and all that it entails." Mr. Darcy defended himself.

Lizzy couldn't help herself. "What it entails? What can be so hard to describe about a ball? Mr. Darcy, you cannot be afraid to talk about lady's fashion, are you not? Miss Bingley assures that you have excellent taste and are always aware of the latest fashions." She teased with a smile.

Mr. Darcy's lips twitched but remained still, although Lizzy could confess to herself that she would like to see him smile.

"As you may recall from Netherfield, Miss Bingley was very generous with her statements about myself, and I am brave enough to admit that conversation about lace positively terrifies me." His comment about Miss Bingley and his confession did make her smile. It had been very obvious to everyone, but Miss Bingley that Mr. Darcy did not desire her attention and that her excessive praise grated at his nerves.

"It is true Miss Elizabeth he could not describe fashion beyond the color and whether it is to his taste or not," Georgiana confirmed, braking the moment between them.

"Then do not worry, Miss Darcy, Jane, and I will describe the ball to the last detail. You will feel as if you had attended the ball with us."

At that moment, a servant came and announced Mr. Harrington. It seemed that it was the day for surprises. As they stood up to greet him, Lizzy could perceive that both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Harrington made a subtle study of each other.

"Mr. Darcy, what a surprise, and Miss Darcy, how are you?" Mr. Harrington was all politeness. Lizzy could see Miss Darcy's natural shyness take over as she responded very quietly.

"Well, thank you, Mr. Harrington." Mr. Darcy seeing his sister's nervousness, changed the course of the conversation to Mr. Harrington.

"It is also a surprise to see you here."

"Well, the Gardiner's and Miss Bennett's will be coming as my guests to your aunt's ball as you well know, and I am here to ask these lovely ladies in advance for a place in their dance cards." Mr. Harrington approached Jane first.

"Miss Bennet, will you do me the honor of dancing with me the first set?"

Jane, serene but blushing slightly, was happy to agree. He then secured the second dance from her and the third from aunt Gardiner and then sat next to Jane. Miss Darcy got closer and whispered.

"Isn't he such a gentleman? You are going to have so much fun at the ball, I am so sure." Mr. Darcy, who was sitting next to his sister, had clearly heard every word his sister had said. "Georgiana, we must go, we have some other appointments we cannot be late for." Lizzy could see the disappointment in her face.

"You can invite them for tea or lunch after the ball, so they can tell you all about it if you wish." Miss Darcy turned to Lizzy with such a hopeful expression that Lizzy could not but speak with enthusiasm. "We would be delighted to go if you were to invite us."

"I will send you a letter the day after the ball so we can set it up. I am very excited, thank you, Miss Elizabeth."

"Why do you not go to Mrs. Gardiner and explain your intentions Georgi?" Mr. Darcy instructed her.

"Yes, of course, brother." As she stood up, she left her alone with Mr. Darcy.

"Well, Mr. Darcy, it's as if you have arranged this scenario on purpose." I could see something in his face but was not sure what it meant, I was not as sure about my readings of Mr. Darcy's character as I had previously been. His encouragement of his sister to invite us for tea or lunch had convinced me that Jane might be right, and I might completely misread him.

"Well, first, I wanted to start thanking you for your friendship with Georgiana. It took me by surprise at the beginning, but it has done wonders for her."

"It was no hardship; she is a wonderful girl."

"And second, I wanted to ask for the supper set."

"The supper set?" While it didn't have the same meaning as the first set, we would end up eating together and spending more time outside of the dancing.

"Yes, I would be delighted." She responded without knowing what else to say, and a rare smile appeared on his face for a second before his face became serious again. He stood up to get his sister and leave. Then Mr. and Miss Darcy said their goodbyes and left, leaving Lizzy completely stunned. After a while, Mr. Harrington left as well, Lizzy had not been an active participant in any conversation since the Darcy's departure, so when they were alone, they turned to her.

"Are you well Lizzy, you have been very silent." Jane asked with a soft voice.

"Mr. Darcy asked for the supper set."

"That is wonderful, is it not?" Jane looked at her with encouragement.

"It was just so unexpected."

"Are you confused or upset that you would have never predicted this outcome." Aunt Gardiner asked her. Lizzy knew her answer but didn't want to respond. Aunt Gardiner also knew, which is why she had asked the question, to make Lizzy realize that it was time to bury her prejudices towards Mr. Darcy and be open to getting to know the person behind the mask.

"I have been reluctant to give up the image that I had of Mr. Darcy in Hertfordshire, but I can learn and admit when I am wrong. I have decided that I will go to the ball with no preconceptions and see what happens."

"I think it is a fabulous idea. And it is not easy to admit that one has been wrong in their judgment Lizzy, so I applaud you."

The rest of the day was spent planning, trying out different hairstyles with their new clothes, and going through all the information aunt Gardiner had managed to dredge up on the ball.