A week after their engagement was formed, Elizabeth and Darcy were taking advantage of unseasonably fine weather to spend some time together in the relative privacy of the 'little wilderness' around Longbourn. Elizabeth was teasing Darcy again about his slow progress in falling in love with her. As her delight served to brighten both the spark in her eyes and the color in her cheeks, Darcy was quite content to bear up under such torment.
"I must own that I was not insensible to the compliment you did me in welcoming me so cordially to Pemberley," remarked Elizabeth. "I was certain that you would hate the very sight of me and would avoid me accordingly."
"I had learnt my lessons far better than that, dearest," teased Darcy in return. She smiled broadly at the endearment and then laughed. Darcy acted mock-serious, "You laugh at my wounds? I assure you I felt them most keenly."
"Seriously, admit it," she said. "You must have hated me for some time, at least a little bit at first."
Now Darcy was earnest, "I could never hate you." He looked at her with that powerful intensity she thrilled to more each day. She returned his gaze and then turned playful once again.
"I know that now you are good!" she laughed. "But someday you will regale our children and grandchildren with tales of my horrid behavior. You know they will ask and you will admit all to them then."
He smiled and replied, "Actually I have that part rehearsed. I know exactly what I will tell them."
Her curiosity piqued, Elizabeth looked at Darcy quizzically, "Really! Well you must share it with me now then sir, before it is too late for me to change my mind about this marriage." He looked at her in such earnest distress at this last that she stopped walking and led him to sit with her under a tree. She maintained her hold on his hands and knelt next to him to say, "I love you, Fitzwilliam Darcy."
He reached out to caress her cheek and said, "Then I shall tell you what I have rehearsed:
"Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate'
To me that languish'd for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
That follow'd it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
'I hate' from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying 'not you.'"
"Oh," she breathed.
He reclaimed her hand. They sat together in silence for some time before he asked, "May I ask for permission to kiss you?"
She blushed and replied lightly, "You will need to be more specific, Mr. Darcy. Who were you thinking of asking for this permission?"
He took this as a challenge and kissed her hand gently, "Who would I need to ask for permission to kiss you like this?"
Enchanted, she pretended to be deep in thought, "I would think that even your Aunt Catherine would grant you permission to do that."
He chuckled, "I sincerely doubt so." Then he leaned over and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead. "Who would I have to ask for permission to kiss you like that?"
She smiled, "I am certain that even my parents would grant you that permission, though it might give my mother some concern to think that such a brotherly kiss was the extent of your ambitions."
He turned her hand over and lightly kissed her palm a number of times before placing a kiss on her wrist at her quickened pulse. He looked up at her, "Do you think that such a kiss as that would lessen her concern?"
She had not realized she'd been holding her breath until she released it. "In some ways, yes."
He tenderly kissed her on the cheek. Then, with his face still next to hers, he asked, "And that?"
She felt giddy and warm. She put one hand on his shoulder to steady herself and answered, "Definitely." Then, not moving away from him, she closed her eyes and asked tentatively, "William?"
He, too, closed his eyes and sighed. "Oh, how I love the sound of that. Yes, my Elizabeth?"
She pulled back slightly so that her lips were just before his, "There is a way of kissing for which I would give you permission." His eyes opened briefly at this and then closed again as he moved to place the gentlest of kisses on her lips. He then placed a second, slightly longer kiss on her lips. Her hand moved up to the back of his neck. He kissed her lips again, then her eye lids, then her lips. He was amazed and grateful for her sweet enthusiasm as she returned his kiss.
Reluctantly, they both pulled back. Their eyes were bright with passion. Darcy let out a long sigh, "I fear I will need a clergyman's permission to kiss you any more than that." Elizabeth laughed lightly as he continued, "And it can not be granted soon enough."
Note: The sonnet is Shakespeare's Sonnet CXLV