A/N: We will spend two weeks with Elizabeth as she comes to realize her feelings for Mr. Darcy in the face of what she has lost.
“Papa, what do you mean we are leaving in the morning?” Elizabeth stood in the hall outside Lydia’s room and kept her voice soft so as not to disturb Lydia if, indeed, Lydia could hear what was being said.
“She needs her mother.” Mr. Bennet drew a hand across his brow as if he his head was sore. “It is best if she is at home.”
“But Papa, Mr. Darcy has promised his physician. Surely, his care would be superior to the apothecary or surgeon in Hertfordshire.” Her brows furrowed as her father’s features seemed to darken.
“We have no need of that man’s help.” His words were stern and determined further furrowing Elizabeth’s brow. “If he had not interfered or if he had told us of Wickham…” Her father shook his head.
“Or if Lydia had thought!” refuted Elizabeth.
“She would not have needed to think.”
Elizabeth recoiled at his sharp tone.
“We leave in the morning. Prepare accordingly. I will not discuss this any further.”
“But what of Jane, Papa?”
Mr. Bennet closed his eyes as he drew and released a breath. “Mr. Bingley still holds the lease to Netherfield and can call on Jane at home if he chooses. We are not staying in town. Lydia needs her mother.”
“But Mr. Darcy was to call tomorrow.”
“We have seen the last of him,” said her father.
Elizabeth gasped, and her hand grasped the neckline of her dress just above her aching heart. “Why?” The question was barely a whisper.
“I have severed our acquaintance,” Mr. Bennet explained, “I do not wish my daughters to be further endangered by such an arrogant man.”
Elizabeth opened her mouth to protest but closed it again as no words would form. Severed their acquaintance? Was she truly to never see Mr. Darcy again? She wished to ask, but her voice failed her.
Had her father not turned and walked away, he might have seen the pain his words had caused his favourite daughter. Had he not descended the stairs without a glance backward, he might have seen Elizabeth slip to the floor and drop her head to her knees. If he had not been in the drawing room, he might have heard her shuddering breaths and small gasping sobs. But he was in the drawing room. He had not looked back, and so he was unaware that he had caused great harm to his daughter.
While Elizabeth cried, Lydia stirred momentarily, Jane wiped her sister’s brow, Mrs. Gardiner sat on the end of the bed, rubbing Lydia’s feet, and Mr. Bennet settled into a chair across from Sir William and next to Mr. Gardiner with a glass of port and his thoughts for company.
Elizabeth was likewise left with just her thoughts for company — thoughts about a man, whom she had come to know better and admire, thoughts about never seeing that man again, and thoughts about how bleak and dreary life would be without that man.
Finally, after some minutes of tearful self-indulgence, Elizabeth rose and went to her room to wash her face. The tear-stained face with puffy eyes and red nose that stared back at her brought to mind the image of Jane when Mr. Bingley had left Netherfield. It was the face of a broken heart. Elizabeth’s shoulders drooped, and her eyes filled once again with tears.
“Lizzy,” Jane peeked her head around the door to their room. “Lydia opened her eyes and asked for you.”
Elizabeth splashed water on her face and then dried it with a towel. “I will be there directly,” she said from behind her towel.
She drew a steadying breath. Thoughts of Mr. Darcy must be put away for the present. Lydia had to be her immediate concern. And so with her resolve formed she went to see Lydia.
Lydia’s smile was weak and her voice soft when she greeted Elizabeth. “I am ever so glad you found me,” she said as she held Elizabeth’s hand.
“Shhhh,” said Elizabeth. “You must rest. We are going home to Mama in the morning.”
“We cannot,” Lydia attempted to push up in the bed.
“We must,” Elizabeth assured her. “Papa has said we must.”
“But I have not seen Mr. Bingley,” Lydia protested.
Elizabeth nodded and smoothed Lydia’s hair back from her forehead. “Mr. Darcy will tell him you were here.”
She hoped it was true; however, with her father having severed his ties with Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy might not speak to his friend on Jane’s behalf. She paused. No, he would. He had said he would tell Mr. Bingley of Jane’s being in town, and he was the sort of man that kept his word. Was he not?
Although the comment had started a flurry of unsettling thoughts for Elizabeth, it seemed to be just what Lydia needed to hear because she smiled and nestled down into her blankets.
“Rest,” said Elizabeth. “Jane, Aunt Gardiner, and I will be here if you need anything. Sleep, so tomorrow, when you see Mama, she will not worry because you look wane.” She smoothed her sister’s hair again. “You would not wish to worry Mama, would you?”
Lydia shook her head and then, as Elizabeth continued stroking her hair, fell into a restful slumber.