This writing is based on the P&P2 and some extra scenes and dialogue that they added. I have given a little more background to these scenes, particularly the "wet shirt" episode, and also Darcy's comment to Elizabeth at the pianoforte at Rosings about "expressing opinions that aren't your own" giving them some added meaning. Since we are all very familiar with the story, I have not included every detail, but only those that add to the story line I have taken. Hope you enjoy it!
Elizabeth Bennet opened the door at Netherfield and stepped out into the brisk, cool new day that awaited her. Her thoughts were pressing on her, she was feeling...what...confused, bothered, uneasy. She took a deep breath and felt the cool air travel deep into her lungs. She thought that would ease her, perhaps it did physically, but in her mind, her thoughts would not cease.
She was glad to get out. Her stay at Netherfield taking care of her sister had been trying, to say the least. Jane was finally feeling much better and was able to come downstairs. Mr. Bingley was ecstatic about this as he was able to at last get to visit with her alone. While she had been sick up in her room, his visits were limited because of her ailment, in addition, when he was able to visit her, he always had to have someone else present for reasons of decorum. She was glad that they were finally able to have a chance to be alone. And right now that is what Elizabeth needed...to be alone.
He thoughts were in turmoil over that past few days. The cold reception she had received and sensed continually from Mr. Bingley's sisters. Their words were cordial enough, but she understood their meanings to be of contempt toward her. As she walked away from the house she absentmindedly kicked a rock that was in her path and sent it flying off to the side.
She thought of her mother's visit yesterday with Kitty and Lydia. From the time her mother entered the house, Elizabeth felt so uncomfortably on edge, wondering with trepidation each time her mother opened her mouth . Her mother certainly obliged her with the most inappropriate conduct in front of Mr. Bingley, his sisters, and Mr. Darcy. But it was the very fact that it bothered her that had her confused. She had lived with her mother and her excesses all these years, and she had grown to be used to them. "That's just mamma," had always been her response to her. Why was it bothering her so much now?
She was fairly assured that Bingley's response to her mother was one of gracious acceptance. He didn't seem disturbed in the least. His sister, Elizabeth knew, were exceedingly agitated, giving contemptuous looks and twittering at some of her statements. But that shouldn't bother her either, as they seemed to treat everyone in Hertfordshire with the same disdain.
Elizabeth walked down the front walk, deciding where she was going to go. She set out toward the east, hoping to walk over to the small lake that lay between the house and the main road. She walked slowly, going over and over in her mind, trying to rationally think through the basis for her feelings.
It couldn't be that it was Mr. Darcy's opinion she was concerned about. He represented to her everything she despised in those of his social status. He was proud and arrogant, barely condescending himself to those in her simple country neighborhood. He represented to her that fact that wealth associates with wealth, marries wealth, position associates with position, marries position. It was all how much money you had, how large your estate was, what your connections were.
He had said that himself the other morning, as she was about to enter the breakfast room. She had overhead him brazenly saying, "with such connections they can have very little chance of marrying well..." She was sure he was talking of her sister Jane, if not also of herself. This was precisely the sort of thing that exasperated her, and to know that this was his guiding principle only put him in more of a bad light to her.
Elizabeth shook her head. If she felt this way toward him, why did she try to defend him to her mother yesterday? His comments about the country, it being confined, unvarying. That should have offended her as much as it did her mother! So why did she feel she had say to her mother that she misunderstood his meaning? She could not even imagine that he meant anything else by it, but indeed to consider country manners and people insupportable to him!
Yes, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley's sisters, Caroline, for the most part! Elizabeth laughed as she thought of Caroline's attempts to make Mr. Darcy notice her. The thought came to her mind that they deserve each other! They both used people to their own advantage, discarding them when it was found they were no longer of any use!
Her only relief in being here was helping her sister mend, and the few precious moments she spent with her making her more comfortable. Now, she was being tended to by Mr. Bingley, and she hoped to give them as much time together, alone, as possible. As long as his sisters don't interfere!
Elizabeth suddenly wanted to run. Her feelings were all pent up and she felt like running and leaving them behind. As she came to the end of a path, she saw Mr. Bingley's dog, Duke, romping about. "How wonderful it would be to have the carefree life of a dog!" They were both stopped, blocking the path from the other, and stared, as if wondering who would be the one to budge. Elizabeth laughed. Suddenly the dog took off back towards the house, and Elizabeth followed, chasing him at a quick pace.
Oh, to have one of Mr. Bingleys sisters see her now! She laughed aloud as she thought of it! What would they think of her? She really didn't care. She would like to shock them. They, who think she takes pleasure in very few things! Suddenly Duke found a large stick and picked it up, challenging Elizabeth to try and grab it. The dog again stared at her, challenging her with his look, and Elizabeth stared back, trying to discern if the dog wanted to play or might bite her if she went for the stick. Duke then pranced a little with his feet and shook the stick, advancing playfully toward Elizabeth. She felt assured he would not hurt her.
"Oh, so you want to do battle, eh? Well, I shall not be afraid of taking you on!" Elizabeth quickly grabbed the other end of the stick and wheeled around with it, playing tug-of-war. "I shall not retreat, I will not let you get the better of me!" Elizabeth laughed and Duke growled, playfully. Elizabeth was able to snatch it out of his mouth. "Aha, you see, I am one up on you!"
The dog then lurched toward the stick and again, they were both pulling at the ends. She was beginning to feel the real strength of the dog and knew she wouldn't be able to hold on much longer. "I may not be able to continue fighting, but I am not finished! You may think that you are superior to me, but I am confident that, though I lack the exposure to society that you feel necessary for an accomplished woman, I have many other, more preferable qualities, Mr. Darcy!"
She suddenly let go of the stick and Duke ran off. She shook her head in amazement.
"What was that all about?" she asked herself. Why was she suddenly talking to Duke as if he was Mr. Darcy? She watched Duke as he rambled off, catching her breath from this little bit of exercise. "You may have won this one battle, but the war is not over!"
She thought, again, of Mr. Bingley's sisters. No, they would never do such a thing. She laughed. No, there is so much they wouldn't do. Elizabeth would have loved to see their faces if they had just now seen her!
Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, up in the second story window, at his window, Darcy stood. Having finished his bath, and walking to the window wrapped only in a robe, he saw the free spirited Elizabeth thoroughly enjoying herself in this simple pleasure of playing with a dog. He instantly felt jealous for that ability to do what one wanted, not to be so concerned about what other's think, what other's expect. He wanted to smile at her, but his reason and common sense would not let him. He watched her walk off in the direction of the lake. Darcy dressed quickly. Suddenly he felt the need to go out for a morning walk.
Elizabeth soon was able to see the lake ahead. The cool, morning air was slowly being warmed by the rising sun. She finally arrived at the lake and sat down by it, enjoying the site of the turquoise blue water lapping up to the green grass around its edges. It was very serene, it calmed her and her thoughts. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, savoring the aromas of the grass, flowers, and...
"Good morning, Miss Bennet," a familiar deep voice broke her reverie.
Elizabeth turned quickly, suddenly her calm and relaxed disposition were set on edge. "Mr. Darcy. Good morning." She picked herself up quickly, curtseyed, and tried to keep a calm disposition on her face so as not to betray her true feelings of annoyance for this interruption.
"I see you enjoy an early morning stroll as much as I do." Darcy attempted conversation.
"You must know from the conversation with Miss Bingley the other night, that I enjoy very few things, but walking is indeed one of them!" Elizabeth was short with him, and regretted her tone of voice immediately.
"I am sure you enjoy a good many things," offered Mr. Darcy, as they both looked out across the lake. "I must apologize for Caroline, she does tend to say things without thinking." He paused waiting for Elizabeth to respond. She didn't. "I hope that her comments haven't upset you."
"Oh, don't be concerned about me, Mr. Darcy. I am only concerned for my sister's well-being right now."
"Still, she had no right to say such things about you." He struggled to keep this conversation going, wanting desperately to get to know Elizabeth better, and her to get to know him. "Tell me, Miss Bennet, what other things do you enjoy?"
She looked at him skeptically. All right, she thought. Here goes. He wants to know what I enjoy doing. I shall tell him!
"I might derive pleasure, right now, if I were at home, to dive right into this lake and take a swim!" She looked at him to see his reaction. He looked at her, shocked. She was satisfied with his response. "It is amazing to me, how a good swim can make even the most bothersome situation tolerable! You should try it sometime!"
Darcy looked at her, trying not to smile. His thoughts took him to Pemberley, and thinking how shocking it would be for the mistress of Pemberley to be caught swimming in one of the lakes. To himself he reprimanded, Her? Mistress of Pemberley? Don't let your thoughts go there, man. Yet a smirk continued to tug at his lips.
Elizabeth saw this smirk and was satisfied that he was mocking her to himself. She turned and began walking away, back to the house.
Darcy turned his head in her direction admiring her figure, and then looked back to the lake. A quick, fleeting image of Miss Bennet taking a swim came to his mind... No, Darcy, don't let your thoughts go there, either!
He debated on whether to follow, but his legs suddenly began moving toward her in long strides and he was quickly by her side, again.
They walked in silence, both in turmoil about their thoughts.
Elizabeth was trying to control her anger. Her steps grew faster and wider as her anger deepened. Her thoughts ran rampant! Mr. Darcy and others like him are so concerned about appearances, what others think, making a good impression where needed, they can never really enjoy themselves! And that was the difference! Elizabeth reveled in the realization that she was happy with who she was, and no one, not Miss Bingley, not Mrs. Hurst, no, not even Mr. Darcy was going to make any difference to her, as to her feelings about her self, her family, her circumstances! Never again would she defend Mr. Darcy to her mother!
Darcy, on the other hand, was trying to control the directions of his thoughts and the sentiment in his heart regarding Elizabeth. In that, he had no control. His heart was causing him to lose every argument in his mind about her and her connections, her family, and that she would not be the best choice of a wife for himself, as mistress of Pemberley. These last few days, being thrown together with her wreaked havoc on his emotions. He savored each moment in her presence, yet strove to fight it. His conversation with her often became bantering, going from sarcasm to ridicule in a moment's notice. And yet it was her words that stirred him, excited him, challenged him.
Elizabeth and Darcy began the walk back to the house. Elizabeth was feeling uncomfortable, thinking that Mr. Darcy was only accompanying her because it was the polite thing to do. She wished he hadn't come out, hadn't happened upon her.
"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth broke the silence. "I hope you do not feel as though you have to accompany me back to the house. I promise you I will not get lost, or hurt out here!"
"I would not imagine you would," was his only response.
They continued to walk in silence for a few moments.
Darcy felt he needed to make another attempt at conversation. What would be safe? His mind searched for a neutral subject. "Tell me, Miss Bennet, as I have only briefly met your father, what is he like?"
"He is a true gentleman!" Elizabeth blurted it out almost too quickly, as if in his defense. She took a deep breath. "He is an excellent father, a wonderful role model. He has been a wonderful example to me of love and patience. He is the most gracious man, generous to a fault, very obliging to anyone who comes his way. You need not worry, Mr. Darcy about his behavior in public. He is admirable!"
"I wasn't worried."
"Oh, but you were probably wondering if he is at all like my mother, or my sisters!"
"Miss Bennet, I...."
"No, Mr. Darcy. My father is a wonderful, thoughtful man. He does prefer the quiet of the house and reading to balls and dances, although he will, on special occasion, grace one with his presence. You may consider my family to be of low connection and of little consequence, but they are my family and I...I..."
"Pray, what did I ever say about your family?" he asked desperately.
"Your manners and attitude to my mother yesterday said more than enough! You expressed your very harsh opinion of us who live in the country, who we are and the way we live! Your very ill comment in our presence of the country being confined and unvarying! The fact that you could not even speak to my mother, and had to turn away, I imagine, for fear that you could not say anything without continually offending her, or any of us! You and Miss Bingley seem to share the same sentiments toward us!" Elizabeth regretted the words as soon as they were out of her mouth.
Darcy felt his ire rise at this. He was very tempted to defend himself in this comparison, to jump in with arguments against her observations, but he knew he would say something to make things even worse. His mind struggled with the proper response to Elizabeth, whose eyes were frustratingly beautiful when she was angry!
He knew she was right about his outburst about the country. They would, all of them, certainly have been offended by his words. But to see him in the same light as Miss Bingley was unpardonable.
"Miss Bennet, I must protest this comparison of myself with my friend's sister. We are two very different people!"
"Mr. Darcy, you are wrong! The two of you have been very contemptuous to us in Hertfordshire from the very beginning, and I don't know why you have even bothered to stay on here. If you returned to London, the country would not miss you, I am sure you would not miss the country, and I, most certainly, would not miss you!"
Darcy was by now exasperated! Why did he find himself in these stand off situations with this woman? He only had one more chance, and that was to humble himself and apologize.
"Miss Bennet, I am afraid that we got off to a...that is, I am very..."
"Oh, Mr. Darcy!" came a shrill voice from behind.
Drat! exclaimed Darcy under his breath.
"Miss Bennet," proffered Miss Bingley. She noticed the red flush on Elizabeth's face and hoped beyond hope that it was because of the morning walk, and nothing else. "Your sister is needing you. My brother was called off to take care of something in the house, and she is asking for you. You better go at once!"
Elizabeth looked quickly at Mr. Darcy, and back at Miss Bingley. "Thank you, I will go to her immediately." She took leave of the two feeling a great sense of relief in leaving Mr. Darcy's presence.
Miss Bingley coyly slipped her arm through Darcy's, not knowing the turmoil in his mind. Darcy shook his head, grateful that Miss Bingley was busy rattling about some inane thing and not paying any attention to the condition he was in. He was angered with this interruption, leave it to Caroline to come at the most ill timed moment. He had again tried to put himself in Miss Bennet's graces, but found himself once more without success!
As Darcy and Miss Bingley slowly made their way back to the house, Darcy noticed Duke, slinking back toward the house, with his tail between his legs. Now what ever has happened to him, to make him behave like that? he thought to himself, feeling, somehow, a very similar feeling coursing through him.
Elizabeth had now found Jane, and was delighted that she had the strength to tell her of her wonderful morning with her Mr. Bingley. They had talked of wishes and dreams, of their past and of their hopes for the future, never once, though, discussing any possibility of marriage one to the other.
Elizabeth was very happy for her sister. When Jane asked her of her morning walk, Elizabeth only said that she probably overdid it this morning and was a little tired from it, but would feel better in a little bit. She did not want to let on to Jane about her frustrating encounter with Mr. Darcy when Jane was so delighted in her time with Mr. Bingley.
They spent most of the day together, Mr. Bingley coming in just a few times to check on her. He apologized that he couldn't spend more time with her, but had some engagements that required his attending to. He related to her that he looked forward to her being able to join them at the table for dinner later that evening, and left to find Darcy.
At dinner that night, Elizabeth could tell that Jane was getting tired. Fortunately the conversation seemed to be directed to Jane and how she was feeling, and how fortunate it would be (Miss Bingley's comment) that she would be able to go home in the morning. Elizabeth was seated at the opposite end of the table from Mr. Darcy, and was therefore spared having to face him. She had only a few times that she was forced to be civil to him, and was grateful that Jane was there to take away the obligation of conversing civilly to him more than she needed, or wanted.
Jane wanted to retire soon after eating, hoping to get a good night's sleep and be ready to leave first thing after breakfast in the morning. Elizabeth stayed in the room a while, making some preparations for the ride home. She really did not relish going downstairs, but knew she must, at some point.
"I am sorry to have been such a bother," lamented Jane to Elizabeth. "I feel this has been a strain for you." Today was the first day Jane noticed the stress that seemed etched on Elizabeth's face. This was not normal for her. Her liveliness and spirit seemed a little quenched.
"Oh, my dear Jane, I do not want you thinking any such thing!" Elizabeth tried to smile reassuringly. "I am just looking forward to leaving tomorrow with you, knowing that you are recovered and that I was able to do what I could to help you feel better." Elizabeth shook her head. "I would not have wanted it any other way!" She smiled, leaned over and kissed her. "Now, you get a good night's sleep!"
Elizabeth picked up a book from the night stand that she had been reading from Mr. Bingley's library, extinguished the candle, and slowly walked out of the room. With any luck, she would be allowed to read and not have to interchange with the others, although perhaps with Mr. Bingley it would not be so bad.
As she proceeded to the library, she noticed the Bingleys, Hursts and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth quietly entered, nodding to each as they each acknowledged her. Mr. Bingley seemed content to just sit, as if contemplating something. Mr. Darcy was reading in the corner, and Miss Bingley was walking about the room, seemingly agitated. Mr. Hurst was asleep on a couch, and Mrs. Hurst sitting quietly by herself.
Elizabeth walked over to a small table and chair and sat down to read. She was grateful that none of the occupants in the room seemed overly anxious to speak. She was losing herself in the words of her book when Miss Bingley broke the silence.
"Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example and take a turn about the room. It's so refreshing!"
Elizabeth was a little surprised at her offer, and didn't know quite how to respond, but closed her book and stood up with her. Miss Bingley took her arm possessively and they walked toward the fire. Suddenly she spoke again, asking Mr. Darcy to join them.
Elizabeth stiffened a little at her request. She looked over at Mr. Darcy as he looked up at the two of them.
"That would defeat the object," was his reply.
Caroline Bingley paused in front of him, and Elizabeth wished they could have just walked on in silence. She looked over at Darcy and tried to discern the look on his face. Was it humor, resentment, impatience? What was the sly smile tugging at the corners of his mouth? Why couldn't she read him as easily as she read others? Elizabeth really did not want to continue on this line of conversation with him and looked away.
"May we insist on knowing your meaning, sir!" continued Miss Bingley.
Darcy obliged Caroline with his answer. "Why that your figures appear to best advantage while walking, and that I might best admire them from my present position!" Darcy's arched head and brazen remark seemed to unnerve Elizabeth as she turned suddenly to him in .
"Shocking! Abominable reply!" came Caroline's stunned response, who was also quite taken from his remark. "How shall we punish him, Miss Eliza?"
Elizabeth tried to determine the best course to go with this, although this flustered by his remark. "Nothing so easy," came her reply. "Do you think there is any way we can intimidate him?"
"Intimidate him?" asked Miss Bingley. "I would not even begin to know how!"
Darcy looked at Miss Bennet, and took a deep breath, his eyes narrowing. "Do not even attempt it, Miss Bennet. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me!" He spoke slowly, enunciating the words to give it more emphasis. He was ready to go to battle with her if she did attempt to alarm him.
But suddenly Elizabeth changed her tactics. "Then we must tease him!" came her unexpected retort. "Laugh at him."
Darcy wasn't quite as prepared for ridicule, and suddenly felt the strain of trying to hold his own against her. They were at it again, and he struggled to stay one step ahead of her.
As Elizabeth and Darcy again began a repartee together with the exclusion of Miss Bingley, she felt slighted. How was it that this country girl, Miss Eliza Bennet, was able to get more words out of Mr. Darcy in a few minutes, than she could get out of him in a full day? She could not even figure out how to get herself back in the conversation, and finally, when there seemed to be a lull in the conversation, she offered to play some music. With nervous frustration she left the two of them with their final words being of both understandings and misunderstandings about the character of the each other.
Elizabeth went back to her book to feign reading, but couldn't read a word on the page. His words, "your defect is willfully to misunderstand everyone!" bothered her. Understanding people was what she thought she did best! She always felt she could read people so well! Why did he believe that to be true about her?
Meanwhile Mr. Darcy stared through the book in front of him. Did she really feel that he "hated everyone?" He had wanted another opportunity tonight to apologize, and had ended up again in another verbal tussle with her for which he would have to add to his list of apologies. As he contemplated his situation, he slowly shook his head. Maybe it just wasn't worth it. She would be more trouble than it would be worth. He had never met a woman like her. Why was he finding this so difficult!
As his mind battled these severe issues concerning her, his heart was steadily rising, his courage was rising. His heart was rising to desperately want her to return his regard. His courage was rising to find a way to do it!
After the ladies left, the party at Netherfield was able to concentrate on planning the ball that Mr. Bingley had agreed to give. Darcy looked upon it with conflicting emotions. He was not looking forward to the ball, but he was most certainly looking forward to seeing Elizabeth again, and, maybe this time, securing her hand in a dance. During the dance, he would be able to apologize and set things right with her.
Darcy had to work up the confidence to ask her that evening, being ever so aware that she might, again, turn him down. What was usually very easy for him became an absolute burden. But lo, she accepted, although be it not too enthusiastically. At least, though, he would have his dance with her.
He was content, as the dance started, to simply let his eyes enjoy Elizabeth's fine features. He anticipated a half hour of being in her presence, briefly holding her hand, moving to the rhythm of the music. He was quite satisfied.
He would find just the right time to offer his apologies.
But in the course of the dance he became very dismayed when she began to speak to him. The dance was one of precision, and he knew it well. But it was disturbing to him to have to think about a conversation with Elizabeth and also remember the steps to the dance. It didn't get off to a good start, either. Her remark, "I believe we must have some conversation, Mr. Darcy. A very little will suffice," set him on edge, making him more aware that there were too many subjects they couldn't talk of, having tried them before and failed.
He struggled in keeping the steps of the dance in line as well as the conversation. In the course of the dance he learned two disturbing pieces of information that made it even more difficult to concentrate. The first being that Mr. Wickham had somehow convinced Miss Bennet that it was Darcy himself who had been the wrong doer in their relationship and dealings together. How could Wickham have done this! What did he tell Miss Bennet? What false information did he deceive her with?
And the second was the realization that the people of Hertfordshire anticipated, no expected, Mr. Bingley and Miss Jane Bennet to marry. Was Charles really falling in love with this elder Bennet sister? He noticed no special regard on her part. And he knew Charles' past of easily falling in and out of love.
What was, to him, anticipated as a pleasing half hour in her company, became a struggle for his senses and sensibilities to remain focused. He could no longer enjoy the dance with Miss Bennet, his mind reeling about the effects and consequences of both these bits of news. He couldn't take the time to discredit George Wickham on the dance floor and make himself right in Elizabeth Bennet's eyes, so he began contemplating what to do about Charles and Miss Jane Bennet.
The rest of the dance was as confounding to him as ever, as Miss Bennet tried to ascertain his character. He was bristling too much to allow any sort of positive sketch, he preferred that she not do it at the present. When the dance ended, he thanked her for the dance and walked away with much regret at the direction the conversation went. His high hopes for a pleasant evening with her was now diminished. He could only wait out the evening and hope to get by the rest of it with as little annoyance as possible.
But that was not to be. During dinner, when his senses were so brutally assaulted by the majority of the Bennet family, he made a decision right then and there. He would get Bingley to leave Hertfordshire immediately, and hopefully, that would eventually get Miss Jane Bennet out of his friend's system. As he stole a look at Elizabeth, he determined that he would also be leaving for his sake, to get Miss Elizabeth Bennet out of his own system.
Later, when everyone had left and all was quiet, Darcy stole outside for some fresh air and to calm his nerves. He heard some noise off toward the stables and wandered off to see what the trouble was.
"Oh, g..g..good evening, m...m...Mr. Darcy," stammered a stable boy. "It's just Duke. Some stray dog has been coming by lately, and tonight Duke went after him. I thought he was g..g...going to tear the thing apart!" The stable boy had Duke by the collar, restraining him from taking off and going after the other dog again. Darcy could see the after effects on Duke of a not so friendly fight. "I've n..n..never seen him act that way b..b..before, Duke's usually so well controlled! I suppose the other d..d..dog must have antagonize him. Something must have happened between them."
Darcy looked at Duke, and then back at the stable boy. "I suppose so."
Darcy was able to convince Charles to leave Hertfordshire for a while and retreat to London. They spent the rest of the winter there, and soon spring arrived. Darcy was anxious to do some travelling. He had successfully swayed Charles to reconsider his feelings for Miss Jane Bennet, convincing him that she didn't care for him as he did for her. With that done, he was looking forward to his time with his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, although it meant having to visit his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. That was something he did as rarely as possible and only when he needed to.
When they arrived, his aunt was most prolific in her greetings, praising them for finally paying her and her daughter a visit, but in the same breath reprimanding them for not coming as often. Darcy was more than eager to leave her and get to his quarters. He had enjoyed the ride with Richard and felt a bond with him, as they had, together, been responsible for his sister Georgiana's upbringing and been through that dreadful time with her and Wickham.
He had shared with Richard on the way down, something of Elizabeth, how she unnerved him to no end, how frustrating she had been to him, how she was unlike any woman he had ever met. Richard was convinced of his love for her, but would not suggest it to him, unless Darcy admitted it first.
When they had been at Rosings a couple of hours, Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam joined their aunt and cousin for tea. Lady Catherine was all excited about the guests of Mr. Collins and his wife. Darcy was aghast to discover that Elizabeth was on a visit at this very exact moment. Colonel Fitzwilliam noticed the slight coloring on Darcy's cheeks as she made this revelation, but only smiled to himself. Well, he would finally get to meet this Elizabeth Bennet!
When they went to the parsonage to pay their visits, Darcy was visibly distraught. Fitzwilliam could only shake his head in amusement. He had never seen his cousin display such ungoverned emotion. He could only laugh to himself about it. Oh, to be in love!
When they arrived, they were ushered into the sitting room to await their return from a walk. Darcy's heart pounded in his chest. He had spent months in London trying to get her out of his system, and he unknowingly walks right back into her life, and her into his! Fitzwilliam watched, as Darcy fingered his signet ring, which was always a telltale sign of his nervousness. Even his countenance seemed altered and shaken. Fitzwilliam thought to himself, this is going to be fun!
When the group arrived, they extended a greeting, and Colonel Fitzwilliam was introduced to the party. Darcy expressed his pleasure at seeing them all again and sat down. Much to his chagrin Mr. Collins pulled up a chair across from him and began an unending praise of Lady Catherine and her gracious hospitality to him. Darcy kept his eye on Elizabeth, who was talking with Fitzwilliam, trying to discern their conversation. They would look over at him occasionally, and he felt very uneasy. With Mr. Collins mutterings, he found it hard to decipher anything they were saying. Finally, out of desperation, he pushed himself off the couch and walked over to the two.
After inquiries about her family from him, Elizabeth mentioned to him that her sister had been in town, and inquired whether he had seen her. He colored, looking down, as if troubled by this question. "No," he replied absent-mindedly. "No, no, I have not had that pleasure." He turned away, as if being in her presence, and carrying on a conversation with her was mentally troubling to him.
She confirmed to Colonel Fitzwilliam that she and Darcy were not the best of friends, to which he exclaimed surprise.
"Why should that surprise you?" she asked him. "I always believe in first opinions, and his good opinion once lost is lost forever."
Darcy turned abruptly. Those were his very words to her at Netherfield. Now she was saying them to him, as if they were her assessment of him. He was not sure how to take this. Why had she remembered them? He had barely recalled saying those words until they were now just out of her mouth! He could only answer with a conflicting look and silence.
That evening as Elizabeth played on the pianoforte, seated next to Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy watched, with feelings of jealousy for the light, easy going relationship the two of them seemed to share. Why were things so difficult for me? Lady Catherine began rambling, and Darcy became more irritated. He got up from his seat, and not knowing where to go, he proceeded to stand in front of Elizabeth at the piano.
She gave a start, and then playfully continued. "Do you mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But don't be alarmed, my courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me!"
She did it again! She was using his exact words! These he had said to her the evening she and Miss Bingley were taking a turn about the room! He could determine from her posture, that she was challenging him with her words, his words!
"I know you find great enjoyment in professing opinions which are not your own!" Darcy looked directly at Elizabeth, acknowledging to her that he was aware she was using his very own words. He found their remarks to each other stimulating, each one trying to outwit the other. Yet in the end, Darcy concluded with a remark that left Elizabeth baffled. That the two of them were actually, very much alike.
The rest of their days at Rosings gave them little opportunity to be together again. Darcy made it a habit to seek her out in the grounds in the mornings, as he knew Elizabeth would go out for walks. He sought her out, enjoying the silence of their walks as they began their day together. To him this was enough, just as it had been at Netherfield. By the end of the third day, Darcy had made a decision that would affect him for months to come. He desperately wanted her for his wife, and would ask her as soon as he had the chance.
Elizabeth's refusal of his marriage proposal had sent Darcy into a deep, dark depression. It had been so completely unexpected, that he knew not how to deal with it. The next morning he had taken her the letter he had written in great anguish, hoping to restore, or at least correct, part of her opinion of him. After delivering the letter, he had given his unexpected farewell, and left, alone, giving Colonel Fitzwilliam much to dwell on regarding this strange behavior of his usually controlled cousin.
He returned to London, hoping the people and activities available to him would help pull him out of the slump he was in. As spring turned to summer, he anticipated going back to Pemberley. It had been awhile since he had been there, and was anxious to return. He made plans with Bingley, the Hursts, Caroline, and his sister Georgiana, to accompany he home in a couple of days. But as that day approached, he heard news that his steward needed him and left a day early for his beloved home.
He chose to ride home on horseback, hoping to purge, even more, Miss Elizabeth Bennet from his system. As he rode through the hills and valleys, his mind replayed every encounter they had together. His heart winced with each realization of his haughtiness, pride, and arrogance. Her words of refusal were like a knife that cut into his heart, as he realized the truth they carried.
As he finally approached Pemberley he was mentally exhausted. It was quite warm and humid, and with the added consternation of his mental and heartfelt anguish, he felt ready to collapse.
Finally he was rewarded with the pleasure of seeing his Pemberley. He slowed his horse down as he gazed upon it. How much he had missed it! He looked down at the lake below him and suddenly a vague picture came to his mind. He recalled the walk he and Miss Bennet had taken and her comment about swimming in the lake.
"What was it she said?" He climbed down off his horse, took off his hat, and walked to the water's edge. He sat down as he removed his vest, boots and neck cloth. "It's amazing how a good swim can make even the most bothersome situation more tolerable." Those were her words.
He suddenly remember how at Rosings she had recalled his words and used them to him. He sat looking at the inviting water, not sure what to do. He wanted to forget her! By jumping into this lake, he would be heeding her words, taking her advice!
Oh, why did she have to follow him everywhere he went? Why, in every situation he had found himself these last few months, did she invade his thoughts? Her words, actions, movements, smiles, frowns, her mischievous, fine eyes...
He looked at the water, and found himself suddenly drawn to it. He hadn't taken a swim in one of these lakes since he was a boy. He stood up and looked, as if mesmerized by it. "You should try it sometime." There were her words again!
He took a deep breath, and dove in! He swam under water for some time, hoping that all those feelings for her should be washed off. He came up for air, feeling physically refreshed, but still mentally distressed. She was still there, in his head, in his heart.
He gathered up his things when a stable boy came across him, looking at him strangely, but not saying a word about the condition he found his master in. Darcy pulled out his shirt, suddenly feeling uncomfortable in the wet clothing. He hoped that by pulling it out, it would dry sooner. He walked ahead of the stable boy and horse, acting as if nothing were unusual in his actions.
"Would you like to ride the horse back, sir?" he inquired.
"No," replied Darcy. "Take him back to the stable.
With that, Darcy was left alone to his thoughts, again, as he approached his home. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed some people on the grounds, and was somewhat startled, knowing his attire was completely unbefitting the master of this estate. He chose, therefore, to walk behind the hedgerow, and come out a little closer to the house.
When he finally did come out to cross the open grounds, he was startled to see someone directly in front of him. From the sun shining in his eyes, he was not able to determine who it was, but was feeling a little more self-conscious because of the condition he was in. As he approached, he was suddenly aware that person had stopped, and in a split second he thought he was seeing a vision of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
"Mr. Darcy!" came the voice from the vision. The realization that it was her startled him beyond measure!
"Miss Bennet!" he exclaimed, completely disquieted by this awareness.
The two of them struggled with their conflicting emotions. Elizabeth was feeling the shame of being found on his property, the impropriety of such a thing! Darcy, on the other hand was totally unnerved by both encountering her here and being so very far from being presentable, both in attire and emotions!. Darcy determined one thing in his struggling conversation with her. He needed to excuse himself to make himself more acceptable. He needed to gather up his courage, and get just 5 minutes of her time to show her that he had changed. And indeed he had! The last few months had not just been ones of idle reflection, but of purposeful change, and he intended to show her how fall he had come! He quickly excused himself, hurrying off to compose himself and his attire, intent on coming back out and starting fresh!
Darcy and Elizabeth walked behind the newly engaged couple, Jane and Charles. Elizabeth's sister Kitty and taken off to Meryton, and the two of them were left alone to contemplate the events that had taken place the last few weeks. From the unexpected meeting at Pemberley, to the evening spent with her aunt and uncle with his sister and the others, the warmth of Darcy's look upon her. Elizabeth was completely amazed that he could still love her despite her harsh words of refusal.
From her sister Lydia's abhorrent actions, and now, as Elizabeth had discovered, Mr. Darcy's involvement in making the situation right, or as right as it could be. He confessed his feelings to her, that they had not changed, and Elizabeth reassured him that her feelings were quite different than they had been back as Rosings. His second proposal had been accepted, and he was feeling as ecstatic as he had ever felt! He finally had his dearest, loveliest Elizabeth, and she loved him as he loved her!
When Darcy returned to Netherfield with Bingley that evening, they took their horses to the stable and walked toward the house. As they approached, Duke suddenly flew past them, as if in chase of something.
"What the...?" Bingley exclaimed. "What's gotten into him?"
They looked in the direction he was going, and saw him catch up to Lady, one of the newer dogs Bingley had acquired and was having trained. Duke went up to her and nuzzled her gently.
Bingley laughed. "Looks like Duke has a lady friend, too, eh Darcy?"
Darcy smiled and laughed aloud. "Yes, Bingley, it looks like he does."
And with that, the two of them went in, each brimming with thoughts of their dearest loves and future wives.
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