fingers covered in rings, and he kissed it. She then withdrew it and placed it precisely in her lap, exactly as it had been before.
âSo you are Elizabeth,â she said. âYou must be very special to have won Darcyâs affections. I never thought he would marry. The news has taken many of us by surprise.â She looked at Elizabeth and then at Darcy and then back again. Her expression was thoughtful. Then she bowed slightly to Elizabeth with a small incline of her head before wishing them joy of her salon.
âYou will find many old friends here and some new ones, too,â she said to Darcy.
Darcy and Elizabeth moved on into the large drawing room so that Mme Rousel could greet her next guests.
Darcy was at once welcomed by four women who walked up to him with lithe movements and lingering glances. Their dresses were rainbow hued, in the colours of gems, and flimsy, like all the Parisian dresses. Their hair was dark and their skin was pallid.
âYou will have to be careful,â came a voice at Elizabethâs shoulder.
She turned to see a man with fine features and tousled hair. He had an air of boredom about him, and although Elizabeth did not usually like those who were easily bored, there was something strangely magnetic about him. His ennui gave his mouth a sulky turn which was undeniably attractive.
âThey will take him from you if they can,â the man continued, watching them all the while.
Elizabeth turned to look at them, and as she did so, she was reminded of Caroline Bingley and her constant efforts to catch Darcyâs attention. He had been impervious to Caroline and he was impervious to the Parisian women as well, for all their efforts to enrapture him. As they talked and smiled and leant against him, flicking imaginary specks of dust from his coat and picking imaginary hairs from his sleeve, they looked at him surreptitiously. When they saw that he was oblivious to their attempts to captivate him, they redoubled their efforts, one of them whispering in his ear, another leaning close to his face, and the other two walking, arm in arm, in front of him, in order to display their figures.
âIt is not right, what they do there, he being so newly married,â said a woman, coming up and standing beside the two of them. âBut forgive me, I was forgetting, we have not been introduced. I am Katrine du Bois, and that is my brother, Philippe.â
There was an air of warmth about the woman which was missing from many of the salon guests, and Elizabeth sensed in her a friend. And yet there was something melancholy about her, as though she had suffered a great disappointment from which she had never recovered.
âIt is not right, no,â said Philippe. âBut it is nature. What can one do?â
He turned to look at Elizabeth with sympathy but Elizabeth was only amused.
âPoor things!â she said.
Darcy wore the same expression he had worn when she had first seen him at the Meryton assembly; and despite the difference in the two events, the noisy vulgarity of the assembly and the refined elegance of the salon, he was still above his company. His dark hair was set off by his white linen and his well-moulded face, even in such company, was handsome. His dark eyes wandered restlessly over his companions until they came to rest on Elizabeth. And then his face relaxed into softer lines, full of warmth and love.
âI wish a man would look at me the way that Darcy looks at you,â said Katrine.
âI am very lucky,â said Elizabeth, and she knew that she was.
She had not married for wealth or position; she had married for love. She wished that she was not in company, that she and Darcy had stayed at the inn where they could have been alone, but she knew they would not be in Paris forever. The calls and engagements would come to an end and then they would have more time to spend, just the two of them, together.
âYou are,â said Katrine.