A Time of Reflection
A Night of Agony and Thought
After returning to his room at Rosings that evening Darcy struggled with his feelings. After completing a letter of defense to Miss Bennet to correct some of the wrong opinions that she had developed regarding Mr. Wickham, Darcy lay for a time on his bed, his mind in a whirl as he reviewed the events of the evening.
He had never been treated so ill in all of his life. For all of his twenty-eight years his opinions were always those sought out by those around him. At home and in town he was always deferred to by all. How came it to be then that this young lady has the temerity to call into questions his actions, motives and desires and discard his heartfelt desires as if they were trash to be blown away in the wind. Who is this young lady to think herself so high and mighty that she can refuse my hand?
Were I to desire it I could have any young ladies hand that I should want. I have but merely to offer a subtle hint and I would have women by the hundreds lined up the avenue in front of Pemberley eager to claim a place by my side. Why, even at St. James' Court the ladies fall all over themselves to have a chance to dance with me, or even share a cup of tea. And her family... such a collection of misanthropes I have never encountered. Her three younger sisters are a joke. Mary with her incessant efforts to please everyone with her uneducated bon mots and poorly trained musical abilities. And then there was Lydia and Kitty chasing after all of the officers in town. What a good joke they all are, vain and idol in all of their pursuits.
And the mother... come to think of it, perhaps Miss Bennet has done me a favour on this point. It still boggles my mind that I even considered her as a mother-in-law. What could I have been thinking of? Her officious attentions to her daughters, trying to get them married off to any eligible man in town.
Struggle as he might, Darcy could not find the solace of sleep. Tossing and turning his mind reviewed all of the words and actions that evening. Try as he might he could not discover any flaw in any part of his proposal. Surely the truth is on my side. It is regretful that Miss Bennet will only come to discover this after receipt of my letter tomorrow. This must come as the concluding act in our acquaintance. After delivering this letter to her, we shall probably never meet again. But how to get the letter to her? Should I have one of the servants take it to the parsonage? Yes, that way I shall not have to face her and suffer further embarrassment.
But no... that would be the coward's way out. I must deliver the letter myself, in person. I know that she usually takes an early morning walk down the lane to the west of the Estate, so I shall await her there and place this letter in her hand myself. I know that upon reading the letter she will probably have a change of heart towards myself and perhaps wish to have me renew my offer of marriage, but that can not be. I will not suffer myself to be humbled in her presence. I am the injured party here, what with all of her falsehoods relating to Wickham. When she learns the truth there I know that she will repent.
But then the matter of her sister? Elizabeth did state that she knew her sister's heart and that it is in deep pain due to the separation of Bingley and Jane. Can I have been so mistaken there? I know that Charles has been in a state of depression lately. Can it be that I truly erred here? But then, no, I can not be mistaken. I know people so well. I always interact with them in a cordial manner, perhaps not so well as Charles... but...
No, no! Surely Elizabeth may have mistaken a bit of puppylove on her sister's part for true endearment. No matter... I shall think no more on this. Enough!! I must get some sleep. My mind is going to spin out of my head if I can not get some rest. Why can I not get these things out of my head?
Now look, the sun is rising and here I have not been able to even close my eyes. Oh, well! I think that I shall just wash my face and then sneak out the back door to deliver the letter to Elizabeth. If she comes early enough, perhaps I can even get back into the house without anyone being aware of my absence.
A Carriage Ride to London
Mounting the carriage after Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy seemed eager to be on his way. "Drive on, Jives" he called out. Lady Catherine and Cousin Anne waved their good-byes from the front lawn as the carriage slowly began the long trip to town. Darcy did not seem to notice them as he appeared deeply lost in thought as he slid into a corner of the coach and gazed absently out the window on the other side.
The carriage soon took its deliberate pace and the regular clip-clop of the horse's hoofs and an occasional order or crack of the whip from the driver were the only sounds that broke the continued silence for the first 10 miles.
During the journey Colonel Fitzwilliam studied Darcy's face for any trace of interest in his surroundings. Failing to find any, at last he decided to break the silence himself. "Darcy, old man. How are you this morning? You have hardly spoken a word to anyone since we got up this morning. Are you not feeling well?"
"Yes, Fitz. I am fine. I have just been feeling a little out of sorts since yesterday and have been trying to get some things straight in my mind."
"Well, and this is a real surprise. You? The one who is always right? The one who always knows the right answer to every question? Come now. Whatever can the problem be? Something of great military significance perhaps? Or perchance some new bill in Parliament!"
"Come on now, Fitz. You know that I am not as bad as Aunt Catherine."
"Well, I do have to admit that you are probably correct on that score, but then not by much! You do have a tendency to 'Lord it over' people due to your station in life. You often use your position in life as the owner of a great estate to make yourself seem better than anyone else."
"Fitz, coming from anyone but you that would be an insult. But I have known you all of my life and know that you only have my best interests at heart. But now that you mention it, can it really be that other people see me in the manner that you have just described?"
"I hate to confirm it cousin, but yes! Most of the time your manner of acting aloof and your air of dignity comes across as prideful and vane. ...But pray excuse me. Why are you asking me questions of this nature? Has someone other than myself mentioned these things to you recently?"
"Well, ye... err ... no! I was just trying to get some things straight in my mind and was speaking somewhat hypothetically." Darcy's face colored slightly at telling this fib to his cousin.
"Oh! Well, if that is true then I hope that my opinions have not disturbed you." The Colonel did not buy the 'hypothetical' part of Darcy's reply at all, but knowing his cousin as he did, he was not disposed to inquire further and risk making him angry. A sudden change of manner had shown that Darcy wanted no further mention of the subject.
"Well then, William, what are we to talk about next? You know I was sorely disappointed yesterday when I went to the Parsonage to say goodbye to the ladies. Mrs. Collins was charming, but I really wanted a few more minutes with Miss Bennet. She really is the most charming and divinely impudent of women. Were I to have the means and ability I would enjoy pursuing a further relationship with her. But with both of us having neither money nor property, I shall probably have to settle on old Lady Penelope's daughter Agatha. She has a fairly sizeable dowry and after her parents are gone their estate would be mine through the marriage. Not a bad catch, but then, I never did care much for Agatha. She is so droll and boring at times, does not play an instrument. She does do some macrame that is quite nice, but I'm not sure that I can build a lifetime relationship on macrame. What do you think, cousin?"
"Uh? ...Sorry. Were you speaking to me, Fitz? I am sorry but I was distracted and did not hear anything you said. What's this about macrame? No, I don't know anyone who has any. Are you needing some to put on your dresser?"
"Well, I can tell where this conversation is going. It seems that I may as well save my breath for the rest of the trip, as you will certainly not be a good traveling companion this trip. Darcy, I am going to take a nap. If you need to speak there are some fine horses with us who will provide you with good conversational companions." With that the Colonel lifted the pillow from beneath the seat and placed it against the side window and decided to take a nap, as they had a long journey ahead of them.
Reflections in the Window
Darcy watched quietly as his cousin drifted slowly off to sleep. His mind drifted back to the earlier part of their conversation. Can it really be that my appearances and manner give people offense? What was it that Father always used to say? Oh yes... 'Son, take care that you do not associate with those beneath you. The Darcy family has ancient origins and has many members who have served the kingdom well. You are to inherit this estate after my death, and are sure to have many admirers of the female sex, who will try to trick you in believing their affections are yours. While in truth they will only be seeking to gain access to your wealth. You must marry well, and the best way of assuring this is to choose a woman who already possesses great wealth or property herself. No other lady can be worthy of your interest."
As Darcy mulled these thoughts over in his mind he thought that for a brief moment he could see Elizabeth in the glass of the carriage window. A gentle wind seemed to blow some loose curls of her hair from beneath her bonnet. As her face turned toward his own, he could see the beginnings of that impertinent smile and in those brilliant eyes flashed a twinkle of mirth... But no, now she was gone. Had it been just a mirage? Oh, why can I not get her out of my mind?
Darcy's eyes began to sag as sleep claimed his troubled frame at last. He had been awake for nearly two days straight and his mind was groggy from overuse. Never being able to relax and drift away from that most unpleasant... ...pleasant of subjects. Elizabeth...
"DARCY! DARCY! Wake up, man? Are you having a nightmare or something? You have been calling out something now for ten minutes and quite woke me up! Who is that you were calling for? I thought that you were saying Elbspeth, but could not quite make it out clearly?" The Colonel fibbed, as he had been able to hear quite clearly his cousin's cries, but did not wish to embarrass his cousin.
"Hmmgph? ...What? I am afraid that I do not know what you are speaking of. Was I talking in my sleep or something? That is strange. I do not ever remember having that happen before. I am sorry, but I do not remember what it was at all. I think that I was on the lake at Pemberley or someplace and had fallen out of a rowboat or something and needed an oar, and was trying to get my companion to throw me something to help me get back into the boat. I think that her... ..err, I mean his name must have been Elbspeth. Yes, that is it! I am certain of it."
"That is very good, Darcy. But you are such a strong swimmer, why would you need a flotation device to assist you? Your dream does not make much sense to me."
"Well then, I agree, it makes no sense to me either. What do you say that we stay awake for the rest of the journey? I do not think that I want to be out on that lake again today!"
For all of his twenty-eight years Fitzwilliam Darcy had been treated with deferential honor. Being the scion of a long line of a proud family, his opinion was always sought out. Being the master of a large estate many were the servants who sought his orders. Merchants from around the area bowed at his appearance, eager to seek his good favor. Darcy was involved in commerce resulting from the goods that his property produced with people from both near and far. All of whom he knew and had been acquainted with regarded him with respect and a tinge of awe. And he had a right to be proud. Having inherited his fathers land and responsibilities at a young age, for the past five years he had been able not only to maintain their position, but also to increase their bounty.
Darcy had other reasons to be proud. Among these of which he was most proud was the care of his young sister, Georgiana. Joined with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam in her guardianship, he had guided her through childhood and brought her to the verge of womanhood. Although her manner, at present, seemed to be shy and reserved, Darcy felt assured that in the coming year he would surely see her blossom and fulfills all of his hopes. After the death of their parents, Georgiana had retreated into herself and was often found hidden in her room, eyes red from tears of grief. Slowly, ever so slowly, over the years the encouraging words and gentle lead of her elder brother had allowed her to overcome the loss and emptiness that such can bring.
During the first days and weeks after his return from Kent Darcy had much business to attend to in London. The Darcys' London townhouse presented a number of duties that the master must attend to. Servants to be paid, merchants to be dealt with to provide care for the building as well as its occupants. Then there were special arrangements for a surprise gift of a fortepiano for Georgiana's 16th birthday to be made. Having been absent from town for a time there were also many matters of society to be attended to as well. Visitors came daily to leave their cards. Some required immediate attention, others could be put off till later. Darcy busied himself with familiar tasks and enjoyed the distraction they provided from the troubles of his mind.
On some occasions Darcy could see young ladies waiting in the carriages from the window of his library, as some gentleman or other stopped briefly to leave a business card or message. Once or twice he thought he glimpsed a familiar bonnet, or a certain set of curls peeking out from under a parasol, but no... the lady would turn and he could see that it was not she. 'She' he thought to himself. Why do I still concern myself with her? It is folly and deceit. She will never be there for me. I must give her up. Somehow I must drive her from my mind. Why does she pursue me so?
What was it she said? Let me think for a minute -- Ah yes, I remember now--"In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot--I have never desired your good opinion!"
She does not love you, man. Can you not get that through your thick head? She feels nothing for you, she was not even grateful for my offer. She said so herself. She does not even care for my good opinion. How ungrateful can one be?
But wait, exactly what did I say to set this off? What were my words? I did express the feelings of my heart quite clearly. I told her that I had come to have a deep regard and admiration for her almost from our first meeting... But then I had to tell her of my family's situation, and how certain other members may view her as of a lower class'. I am sure this can have caused no offense. Surely she saw the truth of it? I'm afraid that I just do not understand women.
Just at this moment Jenkins, the butler, entered the study. Darcy glanced up at him for a moment and then a thought crossed his mind. "Jenkins, you've been our family butler now for 35 years. You served my parents well and have done as well for me. Would you mind spending a few moments with me? I have been trying to settle some things in my mind and need some advice."
"...Err ...Well ...Sir, this is most unusual. I would certainly be happy to advise you in anyway that I can, but I know little of your Estate business or matters here in town, but I am familiar with the other servants. Is one of them giving you some trouble? If so, I shall be more than happy to address it with them, if you so desire."
"Oh, no, Jenkins. Certainly nothing of that nature. I am having some trouble. Well,...err...Well to tell you the truth, Jenkins, it deals with women, and I know that you have been married for nearly 40 years now and thought that you could offer me some insight."
"Well now, sir! There is a subject that I believe will always remain a mystery for the male sex. I can think of no other subject that offers for poorer opportunities of complete understanding than those that relate to the fairer sex. But I can speak a little based on my knowledge of my sweet Myrtle. She is a dear thing, and I love her with all of my heart. Just how can I help you sir?"
"Well, I do not know exactly how to begin. Perhaps I should try to ascertain this from a different angle. Jenkins --- do you think that I am arrogant?"
'Arrogant, sir? Well now, that would not be a subject that I could give you a fair retort on, but if you are speaking of how a young lady might view your manners? ... Yes, let me think for a moment. Sir, may I speak truthfully?"
"Certainly, Jenkins. I want you to understand that I will not hold anything that you say against you. You may speak your mind freely. You have been our servant for many years and I value your opinion as one who has known my family intimately for many years. Please feel free to say anything that you like. This shall remain only between the two of us"
"Well then, sir, if that is the case. Yes, if I were a young lady... Yes, perhaps I might definitely get a wrong impression of you at times. I have seen how you often will stand in a corner, sir, and not speak when there are large crowds present. Young ladies, you know, have delicate hearts and want to be paid attention to. They want someone to notice them, compliment them on their hair, or dress. I know that my Myrtle loves it when I notice if she has had her hair done up. Most of the time I miss it, but when I do catch it -- she is always so thrilled. She says that she does it for me, and feels hurt when I do not notice."
"Why, I can remember a time when we were courting that she had spent hours dolling herself up to be just so perfect. Her hair was lovely, the curls popping out from her bonnet, a pretty ribbon tied 'round her neck. Her dress was all loveliness, sir. She had worked so hard to make herself beautiful for me that evening, and what did I do? Why, sir, I was a booby! I met her at the door that evening and told her hello, rushed to get her in the buggy. Didn't pay her so much as a single compliment for all of her work. Well, Mr. Darcy, if you don't mind me saying so -- if I were her -- I would have turned right around and gone back in the house. I did not deserve her. She had every right to put me in my place. I 'expected' her to be courting me! Somehow I had gotten it into my head that I was above her station and that I was doing her some kind of favor."
Darcy could scarcely believe his ears. Why here was just the thing that he wanted to hear. The situation was not exactly the same, but so close that he could not have wished for better. He was eager to hear more. "Why, Jenkins, I did not know this. Your Myrtle seems to love you so dearly. How came you to this opinion, and how is it that you finally got her straightened out and she came to a better understanding of how she should act towards you?"
"Well, Mr. Darcy, it was a hard thing. My Myrtle went with me that night but she was in a fairly cross mood all evening and when we parted company later that night, she called me down for it and would not even give me a good night kiss. My feelings were hurt and I somehow came to the belief that she owed me an apology for her rudeness."
"Yes, Jenkins. Most certainly she did. How could a young lady not respect your opinion as better than her own?"
"Mr. Darcy! I am shocked that you would say such a thing. We men are not better than they are. Women are a part of ourselves and we owe to them our very lives. It was not a man who bore you in his womb for nine months, and then went through the agony of hell in giving you birth. It was not a man who provided you the substance of their body from their sweet breasts when you were too small to care for yourself. It was not a man who cared for you, cleaned your body and nursed you through your formative years. No, Mr. Darcy, they are deserving of a better opinion than you give."
"I am sorry, Jenkins. I did not mean to demean women in general, I was just trying to comment on that particular situation with Myrtle."
"Well, ...Yes, there is that. But don't you see sir? It is not our place to put ourselves, as men, above them. They are the jewels of the world. We owe them all of our best. They remain at home, quiet, and unassuming. They do not venture so much into the world as men do. They are there for us when we need them. To offer us a word of comfort or share in our dreams. To encourage us to make ourselves better men. They help maintain our homes, prepare our foods, bear our children. They have not the same responsibilities as men. This does not make them less than us, just different."
"Yes, Jenkins, I do believe that I begin to see some of what you are saying."
"Well, sir, if I may continue. My Myrtle was very upset that I seemed to pay so little attention to her. I thought it over that night and all of the next day, and soon came to the right of it sir. She was correct in her opinion of me. I was wrong in not paying attention. I should have noticed her efforts on my behalf. I went to her home the next day and for her forgiveness. We came to such a good understanding that day that I have since never forgot. She is the queen of my life and never a day has passed since then that I have not tried to let her know it in every way."
"Thank you very much, Jenkins. I have enjoyed our talk this evening. You have been a great help to me. I will think on what you have said. Oh, by the way, please convey my regards to your wife, as I too think that she is a fine lady, and you are very lucky to have her in your life all of these years."
"Thank you, sir. I shall do that. But if you will excuse me now, I do have some duties to attend to. I shall leave you alone now," he said as he arose and left the study, closing the doors quietly behind him.
Realization and Despair
Darcy sat back in his chair with many new things to mull over. His mind drifted back to Rosings and to the parsonage. What were his words...? Suddenly he blushed to think of some of them. Shame fell across his face as he realized the meaning of many of them. He had demeaned all of her family, her connections, everything that she was. How could he have been so blind? A crushing weight of loss fell on his soul as he finally came to see the meaning of what his words had done to a heart so dear to him. Oh, Elizabeth! How came I to say such things? All that I wanted was to tell you of my love. All my words were meant in admiration, in my joy at the knowledge of your presence.
He thought back over all of the times that he had been in her presence. From the very first he had degraded her beauty -- That first night when he had seen her "...Not handsome enough to tempt me...." Darcy now realized that there was only one woman in England who could 'tempt him'.
Then later at Bingley's home at Netherfield when Elizabeth had come to care for her sister "I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished." Darcy now knew that there was only one woman in all of England of whom he knew that was 'truly accomplished'.
That woman was and is Elizabeth Bennet. Only Elizabeth Bennet can satisfy this need in my soul. But what have I done? How can I have made such a muddle of things? How came I to speak these words to the only woman whom I could ever love? How much have I damaged that heart that I hold most dear? What care I for all of her relations? It matters not to me if she were a beggar woman. I love her. And what of her mother, Mrs. Bennet? I am in love with Elizabeth, not her mother. Mrs. Bennet means little to me, except that she is the mother of the woman whom I love and I will henceforth respect her as such. Her mind may be flighty and frivolous, but after Elizabeth and I are united, she will remain at Longbourn and we shall be at Pemberley.
But, no! That can never be. I have damaged too deeply. Insulted her opinion beyond repair. My heart's dearest wish is to find some path back to her heart. My mind tells me that all hope is useless and forlorn, and can never be. Oh, agony. Elizabeth..., Dearest Elizabeth ...what have I done? Can your blessed heart ever find room for forgiveness? Darcy let out a great sob of despair and hopelessness. His eyes filled with tears, as his head sank down on his chest as Elizabeth's words came back to his mind, "Had not my own feelings decided against you, had they been indifferent, or had they even been favourable, do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?"
A Sister's Encouragement
"Fitzwilliam... Dearest brother?" Georgiana said as she entered the study. "I heard a sound and came to find the cause. Is there something wrong? Is there something that I have done to upset you so?"
"Dearest sister, No. It is not because of you that I hurt. It is for myself. I have been a fool all of my life and am only just now beginning to see the foolishness of my ways."
"Why, Fitzwilliam. I do not think that you are a fool. I have always looked up to you with the highest regard. You have been my source of strength and light of my life since the death of our dear father. How can you possibly think of yourself so? Has there been some reversal of our fortunes? Have we have lost money or some of our property in some manner?"
"No, Georgiana. I only wish it were a matter of such trifling insignificance. No, dearest. It is a matter of far deeper consequence to myself. I find that I have made the greatest mistake that one can make in life. I fear that I have made a mess of my life and will be looked on only as a person to be laughed at in the future, an object of pity and scorn."
"Oh, Fitzwilliam. Do not say such things. You are a great man, of deep caring and gentle feelings. How can you ever think that such a thing could ever be?"
"Georgiana. You are my younger sister, and I have always tried to treat you with tender care. Can you forgive me for being so ignorant of your feelings and treating you with disdain?"
"But brother, you have not done such to me! I know of no such time when you have ever done this? Of what are you speaking?"
"Ah, it is true, dear sister. I have always treated women as beings of contempt. Our father warned me many times to beware of women trying to grab my fortune and estate, and not returning my affections and leaving me empty and alone. I am afraid that I took many of his warnings too much to heart and..."
"...And? And what, dear brother?"
"Georgiana, I am mortally ashamed of myself. I have offered my hand to the woman of my dreams in such a way as to insult her very being. I offended and insulted her family, I held myself out as better than she. I looked down my nose at her and expected her to bow to my wishes and grovel at my feet. She rejected my offer and put me in my place, which was no better than I deserved. I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the words that I used. I tried to speak of my love--instead all that came out were words of pride. My heart tried to express my admiration and joy in her presence, my mouth told her of how her position would be degradation to our family name."
"Fitzwilliam. I can not believe this to be true. Surely you can not have done this. Please tell me of this woman. Is she someone whom I know? When and where did you meet her? Surely there is something that can be done, perhaps you may speak with her parents and convince them of your desires. Surely her parents would instruct her to forgive you and grant your request."
"Dear sister. I wish that such could be. But, no! Please sit here in this chair close to me and I will tell you all..."
Darcy then related to his sister many of the events of the preceding fall. Darcy was careful not to reveal Elizabeth's name, but tried to convey his thoughts and deeds. His cruel words spoken within Elizabeth's hearing at that first country-dance. His haughty attitude towards her at Bingley's home. His standoffish and brusque manners whenever she was near. And throughout it all his growing admiration and love for this most treasured of women. How his tongue seemed twisted into knots when gentle words of love tried to form. What agonies of desire he felt whenever she was near. The sweet, soft smell of her hair as she passed by him. How the simple rose scented perfume that she wore drove him to distraction.
Oftentimes there were as many muffled giggles as there were sighs of helplessness emanating from the opposite chair. Georgiana had never considered her brother as a man likely to fall in love. Many were the ladies whom she had seen in their vain attempts to attract his attention. All such efforts seemed to be wasted and useless. Fitzwilliam Darcy's heart was not to be touched by such a thing as a woman's countenance. Full many a beauty had failed in the effort. And now here he was, seeming to be an object of pity sitting next to her in the study. His tale of woe touched Georgiana deeply, but many times were the occasions, as the story poured forth, that she could barely contain her countenance as he described his futile attempts to win the woman of his dreams.
Finally, she interrupted his story to offer what little support that she could. "Fitzwilliam... ...Brother, I am but little experienced in the ways of the world and much less in the secrets of love. But I am a woman and from such basis as that wish to offer what help that I can to Aleve your suffering."
"A woman needs to feel wanted, needed, and respected. Were I to become involved with someone, after I am older, I would wish that that man would express his desires of our sharing of our future lives and dreams together. I would wish that he would touch my heart with gentle words of encouragement and offer to me that opportunity to share in his deepest secrets and to be his partner in life. I know not exactly the words that he would use, but feel certain that I would recognize them and be able to see the truth of his heart."
"Brother, is there not some ray of hope that can be found to allow you to repair some of the damage you have done? Perhaps if I were to meet with her I could assuage her opinion and breach this rift?"
"No, Georgiana. The blame is all of my own doing. I could not ask another to intercede on my behalf. I fear that the two of you are destined never to meet. I can find no excuse that would allow myself to ever enter her presence again. I have injured her too deeply. She would never allow it. Her words to me spoke of no possibility of pardon or parole. I have done this to my own self and must suffer the anguish of it alone. No... there can be no hope for my heart's dearest wish. You, dear sister, must now be the one to now carry our family line forward. I now know that there is but one woman whom I can love. Only one woman with whom I could share my life... and I have destroyed all chances of that now, and for all time."
Georgiana knew not how to respond to this, but could only reassure her brother that he did have value and that not everyone viewed him in such a poor light. "Brother, you spoke of your inability to converse easily with her. Perhaps if you were to work on your conversational skills more diligently. When you are next in company with others you might be able in some way to remedy the poor opinion that others develop by practicing more in the art of conversation."
Darcy could only think back, with a sad heart, to those same words related by someone else to him recently. 'But then I supposed it to be my own fault -- because I would not take the trouble of practicing." Oh, how those words struck home now. "Yes, that is it, Georgiana. I shall heed your counsel and henceforth will be more outgoing when in company. You can but little suspect how correct that you are in this matter."
"Oh, Fitzwilliam. I am certain that you can improve in this matter if you will only take the trouble to try. Then, perchance, if some day you should happen to meet your lady again you will be ready."
"I have no hope of that, sister, but will do as you request, if only to help me to address those many faults that were found in me to be so lacking."
A Changed Man
From that day forward Fitzwilliam Darcy did take those words to heart. Whenever he was in company, he began to take the lead in the conversation. His mind began to relax as he began to recognize ways to engage others in conversations on subjects that were of interest. His skill slowly improved as he learned how to pick out bits and pieces of conversations of others and develop them into knowledgeable retorts. In this, his excellent schooling and great knowledge of books on every subject aided Darcy. It was not long before Darcy began to discover, to his own delight, that even while satisfying his companions, be they male or female, he actually began to enjoy the interactions with others.
Although he did not detect many others who had his knowledge and skills. But even so, most had a variety of subjects that they knew some of and enjoyed talking about. Many were even able to offer Darcy pointers and pieces of information of which he had not previously known. Darcy began to be seen more in society during the day, but during the dark evening hours, when alone and given to his own thoughts his mind ever returned to the first object of his heart. An incessant ache filled his chest at times as he mourned for his loss.
Summer was coming to a close and with it came the need to return to his boyhood home for the fall and winter. One day, while at his club he ran into Charles Bingley again.
"Charles, Hello! How have you been?"
"Why Darcy. Is that you? I haven't seen you since we went to the opera 3 months ago. How have you been? "
"Well, Charles... I have been doing fine. There has been a lot of Estate business to handle, and then I had to make some arrangements for some matters to be handled by my steward at Pemberley during the next few weeks."
"I'm very glad to hear that you've been keeping busy. I myself have been kind of hanging around the house visiting with Louisa and Hurst. Caroline asked me to bid you 'hello' should I run into you this evening."
"Hrmph! Well, Charles, you may consider the message delivered. I am sorry Charles, but you know that your sister often gets on my nerves. She seems to believe that there is more to be gained from me that I am willing to allow. I wish that there were a 'nice' way to inform her of this, but she is so insistent and ignores all of my hints."
"Yes, Darcy. I quite agree. Caroline can be most irksome in her efforts to attract your affections. I know that she is wasting her time regarding this matter and have often mentioned it to her. She seems to always disregard my opinion. I do not know exactly how to convey to her your lack of interest."
"It is no matter, Charles. She means nothing to me, except I will always respect her as your sister, nothing more. Her efforts will have little effect. Do not concern yourself, as I am quite capable where she is concerned and merely try to restrain myself from being overly rude."
"You are more than kind to her. I really do not know how you put up with it. But enough of Caroline. What are your plans? Will you be attending the theatre this week?"
"Why, no. Georgiana has some friends that she will be visiting and I did not wish to attend without her. By the way, we will be returning to Derbyshire in a few weeks and I was wondering whether you and your sisters as well as Hurst would enjoy a trip to the country. It is fine fishing weather now and I would enjoy some time on the lake. I have some final business to clear up here regarding my London townhouse, but will be happy to escort you part of the way if you would like."
"Why, that is an excellent idea, Darcy. I have been growing quite tired of town recently and would enjoy some time away. The country holds pleasant memories for me. And I am sure that Caroline and the Hursts would enjoy a break themselves. I shall convey your invitation to them when I return home this evening and send you a note tomorrow as to the final status if that would be agreeable. You say about 3 weeks, why yes, I am sure that this will be fine. I will be looking forward to it."
True to his word, Darcy had stayed with his friends as they left London. As he rode alongside he could see them chatting comfortably among themselves. He could see the Hursts sitting across from Caroline and Georgiana. Mr. Hurst was in his usual state of perpetual sleep when not engaged in complaining about this or that. Darcy studied them and tried to consider what had brought these two together. Hurst was a man of some property and money himself, having inherited a modest fortune. Louisa was a fairly pretty woman. Surely there was not much love in this marriage. Hurst was always asleep or in a bad mood about this or that. The Bingley's fortune had been derived from their father's good business fortunes in dealing with supplying the Crown not that many years ago. Caroline tried to gloss over this and place herself above others, with little success. Charles Bingley was nothing like his sisters and this fact never failed to escape Darcy notice. How can such an easy going and friendly person such as Charles have such different kinds of sisters? Darcy admired Charles' ability to easily interact with all that he met. His own skills, he felt, were somewhat improved that area recently. Yes, he would continue to devote himself to 'practicing' more in this area. Perhaps he may never see Elizabeth again to thank her for this, but he did feel that even in this little way, she had given him a gift for which he owed her a great deal.
The first evening the party stopped at the Inn in ___shire for the evening. The Hursts, Caroline and Charles, along with Georgiana would remain to rest at the Inn for a day, as well as to allow the horses to rest and be fed for the long final leg to reach Pemberley on the day following. Darcy, himself, made arrangements with the smithy for a fresh horse to be provided in the morning just after dawn, so that he could get an early start. Having business with the steward, Darcy felt a need to arrive in advance of the party.
Rising early the next morning Darcy was down for breakfast nearly before the cook had time to light the fires in the kitchen oven. After completing a light breakfast, he thanked the lady and was soon on his way. Darcy had other reasons than meeting with his steward for leaving a day in advance. It had been nearly a year since he had entered the grounds that he knew and loved so well. The stream leading down from the hill where he had played so often as a child. Pleasant memories flooded his mind as he envisioned the gentle dropping of the water across the smooth time worn stones as it entered a small grove of trees. The pleasing road leading gently westward from Lambton to the entry posts marking the boundaries of his home. The gently curving path so well traveled during his youth. He could recall the joyful times when he used to run back and forth from Pemberley to Lambton. There was a tree there that was so majestic with its deep hanging branches that he dearly loved to climb. Ahh... if only Elizabeth could be here to share my home with me this day. I would give anything to be able to see her again, to tell her of my sorrow, to beg her forgiveness. ... ...
Oh, it is such a hot day. This has been such a long ride. I can see home across the way now. And there is the pond that I used to swim in so many years ago. Well, why not? I think that I shall go for a swim. My steward can wait. There is no rush to see him at this moment. I shall take a short swim in the pond and relax before I go in. My back is aching from the long trip. It will help me to clear my mind. 'Gee Haw, come on horse, let us go down this hill to rest a bit from our journey."
Darcy dismounted the horse on the opposite side of the pond. Removing his hat and jacket and dropping them on the ground he determined to walk around to the other side where it bank dropped off a bit steeper and would provide a better place to dive in. Seating himself on the bank of the pond he proceeded to remove his boots, his cravat and vest. Pausing for a moment as he looked across at his home, Darcy then stretched forth his arms and dove into the cool refreshing waters of this small pond by his home. Diving deep beneath the surface he could see all of the plants and lilies that were threatening to take over the water. He determined that he would have the pond drained that winter and cleaned out for use as a swimming hole for himself and Georgiana for the following spring. It would be such fun for them both, and provide him with a needed place of leisure, away from the constant din of activities that were required to run this large property.
Swimming back and forth for about 20 minutes seemed to provide just that needed amount of comfort from his long journey. Darcy climbed out of the pond and sat on the bank for a time before a noise roused him from his reverie.
"Ah, Mr. Darcy, sir. I thought perchance it was one of the servants who had come out here for a swim. It is good to have you home sir. We were not expecting you before tomorrow. Can I help you sir? Would you like me to help you with your horse, sir?"
"Yes. That would be fine. Let's walk over this way, and down the little hollow. It will provide a good shortcut to the house."
"Very good, sir. Would you care to ride him on in to the stables sir?"
"No. Please convey him directly to the stables. I shall continue on this way on foot."
"Very good, sir."
A Dream Come True
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