The Other Side of Pride and Prejudice
Christmas soon came. Darcy did not see Jane again, though he imagined she was staying in London, probably with her Cheapside relatives. Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst never brought up the topic of her visit, nor did Darcy.
The festive season brought more invitations to balls and parties. Darcy attended many, partly to cheer up his friend, partly to help Georgiana overcome her shyness. He had a moderate success with both.
All too soon, it was the new year. Darcy silently resolved to take batter care of Georgiana. But he also knew that there had to be an heir for his estate so he resolved to try and find himself a wife.
Darcy wanted above everything else to find someone who would love him - not for Pemberley or his connections or his ten thousand a year but for himself; a lady who would marry him even if he was a beggar. Unfortunately, such women were rare - he had never met such a woman and he wondered if they were just a product of his imagination. Darcy had encountered many Miss Bingleys in his twenty-seven years, all who had eyes on his estate and income and didn't care about how he felt. He was beginning to lose hope, and would probably soon resign himself to marrying his cousin Anne de Bourgh.
And so another year had come and gone. Bingley became more like his usual self, but there were still spells of melancholy; his sister would not lose hope on gaining his attentions.
Time moved on.
Darcy's cousin came to London in February. He was very glad to see him - Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam was full of good humour and was not above teasing his more taciturn relative.
"Darcy! How was your visit to Hertfodshire? Did you meet any lovely young ladies?" were his first words to him.
Darcy laughed and poured the Colonel a glass of wine. They were all alone in the house - Georgiana had left to see her music master, Mr and Mrs Hurst and Bingley were out in town and Miss Bingley had left without telling anyone where she was going, but she did not look very happy about it.
"I met an inordinate number of young ladies, but there was only one who I deem worthy of the title 'lovely'."
"Oh? This is a new development? May I inquire as to who this maiden is?"
Darcy smiled at his cousin but mentally kicked himself for letting himself into this situation. But his cousin would not let him change the subject so he had no choice but to continue.
"She is Miss Elizabeth Bennet. She is the second eldest in a family of five daughters."
Fitzwilliam smiled. When Darcy did not continue, he said, "And - ?"
"And she is beautiful, fond of lively conversation, very accomplished for she plays and sings very well."
"As well as Georgiana?"
"Not quite, but she plays with such ease and with an unaffected manner she is pleasure to hear."
"This is quite a first! Admiration of a woman from you, Darcy? Are you in love?"
"Why does everyone think that? No, I am not."
"Well, Darcy, if that is the case why are you here in London? Why did you not stay at Netherfield and enjoy this lady's company?"
"Bingley was beginning to form an attachment to a young lady so we came to London to convince him the error of his choice."
Fitzwilliam was silent for a while.
"There were very strong objections to the woman, cousin," added Darcy upon seeing his cousin's face. "Her position, her connections, that sort of thing."
"And what was Bingley's response to this?"
"He did not take it well, but it was in his best interests. The marriage would have been most inconvinient for him."
"Oh . . "
They soon talked of lighter things. Darcy was grateful for this change. He did not want to be reminded of his talk with Bingley, or his friend's unhappiness.
"Don't forget - we have to visit Aunt Catherine in March."
"Oh no. The Annual Visit - when Aunt keeps dropping hints about Anne and me, hours of listening to her talk, no I have not forgotten."
"I feel sorry for you cousin. That is the advantage of being a younger son - you do not have the pressure to marry."
"So when would you like to leave?"
"Late March - it will make the visit as short as possible."
"Yes, I agree. There is nothing to hold us there, is there."
"No, there isn't."
Time passed slowly between Colonel Fitzwilliam's arrival (which was greeted with much enthusiasm by most) and the day Darcy and his cousin had to go to Rosings. During that time, Darcy found many distractions from the boredom the aristoracracy usually experience.
The first was Bingley. He was quieter, more subdued though he was lively enough in smaller gatherings of his friends.
The second was Miss Bingley. No matter how politely he parried all her attempts to gain his attentions she still did not realise that Darcy had absolutely no interest in her apart from his best friend's relative.
His own sister was the third. Georgiana was still very shy in society, and though he was determined to overcome her shyness, he did not have the heart to push her. Colonel Fitzwilliam was also a distraction. His good-natured teasing was a welcome relieve - sometimes - from the politeness and respect everyone held for him, though Darcy sometimes did wish Fitzwilliam did have a bit more respect for him.
And last, but not least, was Elizabeth Bennet.
Unlike the others, he could not avoid this distraction. Wherever he went, whatever he did, she followed. It was rather pleasant; something to smile at in a time of little cheer. If he was reading, he saw her sitting in a chair near him curld up with one of his favourite works. At balls, he would imagine she was also there. She would dance with him and Darcy would experience that pleasant shock he remembered when their hands touched.
But after a while, it became slightly annoying.
Once he was fencing with Colonel Fitzwilliam. For some reason, he thought of his conversations with Elizabeth, which were like fencing match. Attack, parry, defend - it was very similar but with words instead of rapiers.
Suddenly the weapon was struck out of his hand and it clattered on the ground.
Fitzwilliam was looking at him curiously.
"Well, Darcy, that is quite unusual. You are never defeated after only two exchanges. Is there something on your mind?"
"No . . . nothing of importance."
"Do not deny it, cousin. What is it? Maybe it is your Elizabeth Bennet you are always telling me about. Hardly a day goes by in which you do not mention her at least once. Am I right?"
Baines interrupted them, asking them to clear the area for the next opponents. Darcy took advantage of this opportunity to excape the uncomfortable questions. He did not wigh to lie, but nor did he want to tell his cousin the truth.
Finally, on the morning of their departure, Darcy realised that his obsession with Elizabeth had crossed from irritating to disturbing.
He woke up that morning and lay in bed for some time, summoning up the strength to last through the visit. He groaned - there would be no one there except his aunt, his cousin and her companion. Actually, there would also be that simpering clergyman who lived nearby, the one who was Elizabeth's cousin.
With the thought of Elizabeth, he idly looked down to the empty space in the bed beside him. For a brief moment he imagined her lying there, her dark hair curling over her shoulders and a slight smile on her face as she peacefully slept.
With a feeling of shock and revulsion, Darcy got out of the bed and stormed across the room.
"Stay out of my mind!" he cried to the unfeeling walls.
What is wrong with me? he thought to himself. Why does she dominate my thought like this? I came to London to forget her and yet my thoughts are turned more frequently towards her!
Angry more at himself for his lack of control than at the lady herself, he flung himself into a chair and brooded.
Alerted by the noise, a servant opened the door and asked if his master required anything.
"No! Leave me!"
Terrified, the man left. Darcy listened to the footsteps rapidly disappearing and stared into the fireplace.
Some minutes later, there was a sharp knock on the door again.
"Who is it!" growled Darcy.
"It is I," said his cousin. Without ceremony the door was opened and the Colonel stepped inside.
"Darcy are you ill? Good Lord, you are not even dressed! We have to leave in half an hour if we are to reach Rosings in time."
Darcy did not answer.
"You cannot escape your duties, cousin. And you have a duty towards Lady Catherine. She is family."
Darcy sighed, feeling his duties settle over him like a leaden weight. Duty. He had a duty towards his family, a duty towards his estates, a duty towards Bingley and more. The list went on and on.
When can I do my duites towards myself?
"No, I have not forgotten." Darcy stood up and faced his cousin. "I shall join you downstairs in ten minutes."
Fitzwilliam nodded and left, closing the door.
Darcy reached for the clothes the valet had laid out for him.
Eight minutes later he was walking down the staircase towards the door. There he observed Bingley and his relations and Georgiana waiting on the steps to say their farewells. Fitzwilliam was directing the servants to place the luggage on the carriage.
Miss Bingley, with no surprise was the first to say her goodbyes.
"Well, sir, so you are to spend some time with your relations? I wish you a safe journey."
"And you will return soon? I know that I . . . we will be most unhappy without your company. And the Colonel's," she added hurriedly.
"I hope so."
Mr and Mrs Hurst merely wished him well; Bingley was the only who he knew he would miss apart from Georgiana. He promised his friend and his sister that he would write often and then the Colonel joined him in his farewells.
Time soon commanded that they begin the journey and so they entered the carriage and drove off to Kent.
Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam passed the time agrreably for most of the journey.
"Did I mention to you that Colonel Forster was in Hertfodshire?"
"No, you did not, Darcy," replied he. "How was he?"
"In excellent health. He has lately married - did you know that?"
"Old Rudolph Forster, married? That is a new development indeed! And how does matrimony suit him?"
"I think it does him very well." He paused. "Wickham has joined his regiment."
"Did he now! I wish Forster good luck with him. Heaven knows that man is a dirty scoundrel. I hope you managed well with Wickham in towm."
"I think I did. I oly saw him briefly - I was half-afraid he would attend a ball Bingley was holding, but he did not."
"It is good for him he did not. I know what you are capable of, Darcy, when you are terribly angry."
Darcy smiled grimly at his cousin.
There was silence for a while, then Darcy looked outside and wondered how long it was until Kent.
"I do not think it is much longer."
Darcy nodded and sat back in his seat.
Kent - even further away from Hertfodshire and its intriguing resident.
Maybe he could finally get her out of his mind.
They arrived at Rosings in that afternoon. As they drove by the lodgings opening into a nearby lane, they observed a rather large man in a clergyman's clothes. They were unable to see his face, as it was hidden by the very deep bow the man was making.
"Who on earth is that fellow?" asked Colonel Fitzwilliam, "and what is he doing in that ridiculous position?"
Though the man's face was hidden, Darcy knew who it was.
"I believe that is Aunt Catherine's clergyman, a Mr William Collins."
"Does he always behave like that to her?"
"I do not know. But we shall soon find out."
Ten minutes later found them sitting in the drawing room at Rosings with Lady Catherine, her daughter and her companion.
"It is wonderful to see you again, my dear nephews. We have missed you so much! Anne, especially has missed your company, Darcy," said Lady Catherine.
Darcy rolled his eyes, which Colonel Fitzwilliam saw. His cousin looked at him with sympathy.
"I am sure you have, aunt. What have you been doing with yourself in our absence?" said the Colonel, skillfully changing the subject.
"Oh, I have not been completely without company, Fitzwilliam," replied she, "Though they are not of our social standing, they are interesting enough. My clergyman has recently married. Her sister and friend have come to visit her and I invite them over quite often."
"Who did he marry?" asked Darcy, sure that it was the former Miss Charlotte Lucas.
"A Miss Lucas of Hertfodshire. Mr Collins found her when he was visiting relations there. Mrs Collins' father came to visit, a Sir William Lucas. He has left now, but her sister, Miss Maria Lucas and friends, Miss Elizabeth Bennet are to remain here for some time."
Darcy sat up straight and looked at his aunt.
"Who is Mrs Collins' friend?" he asked abruptly.
"A Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I believe she is Mr Collins' cousin as well."
Darcy heard nothing more, but got up and walked to the window. He stared at the grounds below. He sensed that Colonel Fitzwilliam was staring at him strangely but hardly noticed.
She is here?? his mind said disbelievingly. She is here, close to Rosings! She will be staying for some time and is not married??
His mind raced. He had to see her!
A servant entered and announced the arrival of Mr Collins.
He had not changed since Darcy had last seen him. The man was still short, rather large and sweaty and his fawning had, if such a thing was possible, increased upon coming into the presence of his patroness.
"My lady, as sson as I knew that your wonderful relations had arrived, I immedietly came to pay them my respects. Mr Darcy, I am honoured to say, I have met before, in Hertfodshire. The excellent Colonel, I have not, but may I say that it gives me very great pleasure to see him."
The man bowed deeply towards them both.
Darcy looked at his cousin, smiling as he observed an expression of incredulousness on his face.
"And may I also say on behalf of my family and relations that we are very pleased that you are visiting your illustirous aunt . . . "
"Then let us thank your relations ourselves," said the Colonel. There was a sense of anticipation in his cousin's that Darcy did not miss. "Come man, why don't you go on ahead to tell them of our coming, and we shall join you later?"
Mr Collins looked as if he would be willing to die and meet his Maker if the honourable guests were to step into his humble abode.
Darcy's heart was beating quickly. He would see her again, after all these months!
"Oh yes, sir, I would be greatly honoured, if you would . . . "
Lady Catherine made a gesture causing the man to stop talking.
"I am excessively displeased - there is no reason for you to go, Fitzwilliam. There is no one of out social rank there to make the trip worthwhile. Darcy agrees with me, do you not?"
Darcy turned towards his aunt.
"Quite the contrary, madam. I wish to thank these people who have been so obliging as to entertain you before we arrived."
His answer must have surprised his aunt for she did not say a word for a full ten seconds, which was enought time for the two men to fetch their hats and leave the house.
Mr Collins had begun to run on ahead of them. Darcy could tell the man was not a frequent athelete - he was slowing before he had gone twenty paces. But he was determined to arrive there before Darcy and Fitzwilliam and he was soon lost to sight.
At a more leisurely pace, the two men followed.
"Well, Darcy, this is an unexpected pleasure! I finally am able to meet this famous Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
"Yes, a great surprise," answered Darcy absently.
His mind still could not fully comprehend that she was there, within an easy visiting distance, possibly even closer than she was in Hertfodshire. He wondered - was she still the same? Had she changed at all?
The Hunsfore Parsonage came into view, and Mr Collins stood panting in the doorway, inviting them into his humble abode.
Darcy sat down on the sofa. He barely noticed Mr Collins sitting in the seat beside him, or his wife and sister-in-law. All his attention was on Elizabeth.
As soon as introductions had been made, Colonel Fitzwilliam had seated himself beside Elizabeth and struck up a conversation.
"I'm delighted to make your aquaintance at last, Miss Elizabeth," said he.
"At last, sir?" asked Elizabeth.
"Well, I've heard much of you and none of the praise has been exaggerated I assure you."
Of course not.
He stared at her. She had not changed. She was still lovely - her eyes had even become more beautiful, if a little sad. She smiled at his cousin - and Darcy felt a surge of emotion he had never before felt before in his life.
"I well believe Mr Darcy is my severest critic."
Why does she think that? She has nothing to criticise!
"I hope we shall see you frequently at Rosings," continued the Colonel after a short pause. "I am fond of lively conversation."
"And this you do not find at Rosings Park?" asked the lady.
"Well, my aunt does talk a great deal, it seldom requires a response. My friend there," he said, nodding at Darcy, "speaks hardly a word when he comes into Kent, though he's lively enoughin other places." Fitzwilliam leaned in a bit closer towards his companion. Darcy resisted an urge to interrupt them.
"Nobody plays, nobody sings. I believe you play and sing, Miss Bennet."
"A little, and very ill - I would not wish to excite your anticipation."
Why so modest? You play very well, as I have told my cousin frequently.
"I'm sure you're too modest, but any relief would be profoundly welcome I assure you," replied Fitzwilliam.
Suddenly, Elizabeth looked directly at him, and then asked his cousin,
"Can you tell me why Mr Darcy keeps staring at me?"
A silence greeted this question. Darcy was aghast at being noticed in his ctivity, and ferverently prayed his cousin would not answer.
He decided their conversation had gone far enough. They had no right to talk about him.
Darcy got up from his chair and walked slowly over to them. He stood over them and addressed Elizabeth. The room was silent.
"I hope your family is in good health?"
A safe, neutral question, though heartily wished he could say something more . . . intimate.
"Thankyou, yes," replied she, looking up at him and giving him one of those indecipherable looks that intrigued him so.
He did not move away, wondering if she would say anything.
She did - but it was not the question he had been expecting.
"My sister has been in town these three months - have you never happened to see her there?"
How did she know I saw her?
He regained control of his inner turmoil - she did not know, she was merely inquiring. But it was out of the question that he should tell her the truth - and so Darcy had to lie.
"No . . . no I have not had that pleasure."
Telling a lie, even such a small one, was uncomfortable for him. He moved away from her to the window to hide his discomfort.
"Mr Darcy and I, you see, are not the best of friends."
"Well, I am very surprised to hear that," replied the Colonel.
"Why should you be? I always believe in first impressions, and his good opinion once lost, is lost forever."
Darcy looked back slightly at her. His own words, again thrown back into his face.
"So you see it is a hopeless case is it not, Colonel Fitzwilliam?" said Elizabeth.
Darcy was confused at her words. What did she think of him?
There was little of interest after that. Darcy watched as Elizabeth and his cousin talked and laughed. Sometimes they would look at him, and he fumed at being the subject of their discourse.
As dusk fell, the two gentlemen left for Rosings.
"That was a pleasant evening, was it not, Darcy?" sighed the Colonel in the study at Rosings. "Miss Bennet is a very wonderful woman, do you not agree?"
"You seemed to get along quite well with her," he said reservedly.
"It surprised me that she said you two were not thw best of friends. From what you told me, I imagined you were."
"Information can be misleading, Fitzwilliam."
"Her sister was in town? Why did I not see her?"
"London is a very large city, cousin. Finding one person out of millions is unlikely."
They sat in silence - one remembering his companion's charm, that other extrememly confused, smitten and . . . .
Darcy did not know what he was feeling. It was something he had never felt before, but it was not kind towards his cousin. It also involved Elizabeth - she was right in the middle of it.
Darcy went to bed to sort out his muddled emotions.
Darcy awoke, no closer to sorting out his tangled thoughts this morning than he was last night. He decided to go for a morning ride along his favourite walk. Perhaps the fresh air would assist his thinking.
This walk was along the open grove which edged that side of the park, where there was a nice sheltered path, which no one seemed to value but himself, and where he felt beyond the reach of people's scrutiny.
He rode along, deep in thought. Elizabeth's staying so close to Rosings was a shock. Whether it was pleasant or pain it was undecided, though he was inclined to think the former.
But her presence was not likely to help him keep his control - whenever he was near her it took all his self-control not to do anything rash.
Suddenly, as he rode past the trees, he saw her.
Elizabeth was dressed in a white muslin gown, the upper part covered by a curry-coloured coat. Her eyes looked out at him in surprise from under her dark hair and bonnet.
She was so breathtakingly lovely, her form framed by the greenrey of the trees. He reined in his horse and looked at her.
The lady paused in her walk and clasped her hands in front of her. She did not speak.
Perhaps that was best, for Darcy was unable to say a word. A dry, sensible part of his mind suggested that he leave before he said something he would regret later on, so he kicked his horse back into action and slowly, regretfully rode away.
The moment he was clear of the trees he went into a gallop, and proceeded quickly back to the house.
Just as he arrived, he observed Colonel Fitzwilliam about to leave.
"Where are you going, cousin?" asked he.
"Oh, I am to go to the Parsonage again. I intended to go earlier, but Miss Bennet said that she often took a walk by herself in Rosings Park, so I informed her that I would come to visit later."
Darcy resisted an impulse to physically hold the Colonel back to prevent him from going. Seeing them so at ease in each other's company was not agreeable with him.
But why? thought his mind. She has no obligation to you, that she speak with no other gentleman apart from yourself.
Seeing no reply from his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam left the house, whistling a jolly tune.
This development meant that Darcy had to spend most of the day with his aunt and cousin.
"And so, my dear Anne told her that it was not proper for a lady to go to the shops by herself. A lady, I always say, must be accompainied at all times by an older woman, or a male aquaintance," said Lady Catherine.
No one answered this tale. They had sat there for nearly two hours after lunch holding a conversation. But as Darcy was not inclined to speak, nor was his cousin, then Lady Catherine took the task upon herself. Colonel Fitzwilliam had notyet returned, and Darcy was telling himself not to go after his cousin and tell him to come home.
Footsteps were heard in the hall and Darcy got up to intercept his cousin before Lady Catherine did.
"Well, Darcy, how do you do? What were you and our aunt speaking of that made you so eager to come and see me?"
"Too many to count. Shall we excuse ourselves and go to the study?"
Fitzwilliam agreed and they breifly returned to the drawing room to excuse themselves. They entered the rarle used study, and the Colonel sat in the chair while Darcy preferred to stand near the mantle.
"So what did you do at the Parsonage?" asked Darcy, hiding his curiosity.
"Much of my time was spent conversing with Miss Bennet. I enjoyed myself profusely."
"And what did you speka of?"
"Many things; her family, music, various books, even politics at times. She is a very interesting young lady."
"Oh? Is that all?" pressed he. Darcy wanted to know if their conversations were at all similar to the ones he and Elizabeth had held together.
"Well, at I must confess, you were a lengthy topic of conversation that she introduced."
Darcy turned to face his cousin.
"She wished to talk about me?" he asked increduously.
"Why yes. You were very interesting," said the Colonel, laughing. "And I intend to go there again tomorrowand continue 'our conversation'."
"Cousin, I feel that it would be unwise for you to form an attachment to Miss Bennet," said he.
"Oh? And why is that?"
"Her position in society - she will not inherit her father's estate, not does she have any fortune."
"Is that all?" laughed Fitzwilliam. "I already knew all that - and no I have no 'plans' - younger sons cannot marry where they like, remember?"
"So it was only with a practical view that you have cautioned me?" He laughed again, getting up from his seat and opening the door. "If it was not that, I would have thought you were jealous, Darcy."
He left the room, closing the door behind him, leaving Darcy standing stiffly at the window. The last comment by Fitzwilliam repeated itself over and over again.
"I would ahve thought you were jealous, Darcy."
Jealousy! That was what he felt against his cousin. It was frightenening - it nearly went deep enough or Darcy to wish harm to his relation.
But if jealousy is what I feel for Fitzwilliam because he has Elizabeth's attentions, then what do I feel for her? ran his thoughts.
His heart knew the answer. It had known the answer for many months now, though his mind had never acknwoledged it.
He loved her.
The moment he realised that, a feeling of peace settled over him. After such a long time, he finally admittted it to himself. He sighed, seeing her as she had appeared to him that morning.
Then his mind took precedence again and curtly asked him,
You are in love. So now, what do you plan to do about it?
Darcy did not know.
Part 19 -- 'I am not afraid of you'
Colonel Fitzwilliam again expressed his intention of visiting the Parsonage again at breakfast the next morning, an intention that was responded with questions from Lady Catherine and silence from his two cousins, one because she had no interest in it and the other because he had a very great interest in it.
Now that he knew what he felt for Elizabeth and his cousin, Darcy tried to control these feelings. The jealousy for the Colonel was not too difficult - all he had to do was remind himself that his cousin was his cousin and all his cousin had done for him over the years and that jealousy for relations was not a gentlemanly thing.
As for his . . . love for Elizabeth, well, that was slightly more difficult.
He remembered how he had seen her yesterday morning and wondered if she would be there again today. He felt as if he did not go the day without seeing her fair countenace, he would be most unhappy.
But is was not within the limits of propriety that a gentleman such as him should purposely walk to meet a lady. So he told himself not to follow through with his desire.
Twenty minutes later found himself walking along the place where he had seen her yesterday, telling himself he was merely walking for his own health. For his physical health or mental health he did not know.
She was there.
Elizabeth was walking off the path, looking up at the tree canopy above. She did not notice him until she was but a few feet from him. Only then did she look back, and when she saw him there, she stopped and frowned slightly.
"Good morning, Miss Bennet," said Darcy, lifting his hat.
"Mr Darcy," she replied without any emotion, "Good morning."
She nodded to him and made as if to continue on her walk.
"I hope you are well," said he, unable to think of anything to say.
Why, whenever I am around her, my tongue seems to lose its will to move?
"I am quite well, thankyou."
"And your family?"
"They are also quite well, so my sister tells me when she writes."
An awkward silence fell after this, with only the chirping of the birds flying above heard.
"Do you often walk in the park?" asked he.
"Tolerably often. Whenever I feel the need for solitude I come here. This walk in fact, is perhaps my favourite haunt."
Darcy wished to say that this walk was also his favourite which he used to escape the questionings of his aunt, but his tongue would not respond.
Elizabeth walked past him and did not look back. Darcy altered his position and walked with her. She glanced at him strangely but did not protest.
"I take it to believe that you enjoy solitary walks?" he pressed, looking at her. After some moments, he told his eyes to adjust their present position and reluctuntly they did so.
"Yes, I do in fact."
"Even if it is through fields after the rains?" he continued, referring to her walk to Netherfield. At that time he had thought it was rather shocking - now all he could remember was how lovely she had looked when he had met her in the garden.
At this remark, she looked at him from beneath her dark curls. He attempted to gauge her thoughts, unsuccessfully.
"If the occasion justifies it, and I believe that the health of a sister certainly justifies it. But I suppose, you have a different opinion."
"Perhaps I do."
Darcy certainly did not want to tell her how much he admired her.
They found themselves at the gate in the pales near the Parsonage, and here Darcy left her. None of them said farewell, and quite frankly, Darcy was glad to be out of her presence, as it had been playing havoc with the rhythms of his heart.
What do I do, what do I do? thought Darcy later on that day in his room. He was surprised the floor had not been worn down by his pacing.
Colonel Fitzwilliam had already left by the time he returned from his walk in the park of Rosings and Darcy was on one hand grateful that his cousin had left before he had done anything to prevent him from visiting, and on the other, angered his cousin had gone. His mind remained sensible and curtly told him that his cousin had every right to see Elizabeth.
He sat down on the bed and held his head in his hands. He knew he loved her, and he was astonished and frightened of its depth, but he knew not what to do about it.
For the rest of the week, he kept going to the walk but he did not see her. Colonel Fitzwilliam teased him on his sudden enthusiasm for the excercise and Lady Catherine also took notice of his daily morning disappearances. He eluded all their questions but some success, though it became harder as the week progressed.
The residents and visitors were not invited to Rosings that enire week, and so the two men were forced to endure evening after evening of their aunt's company. Darcy knew it was not proper to dislike one's relatives, but his aunt was an exception.
Finally on Easter Sunday, Lady Catherine invited them all to dinner at Rosings (after many suggestions by Colonel Fitzwilliam).
Darcy found Mr Collins' sermons long, pompous and quite frankly, boring. Because of his aunt's insistence on maintaining social rank, they sat at the front of the church, while Mrs Collins, her sister and friend sat several rows behind the upper memebers of the local community. Darcy agreed with his aunt with keeping the distinction of rank preserved but he still wished he had been able to sit closer to Elizabeth.
His thoughts and questions had plagued him the entire week. He wished he could go to confession and seek counsel but he certainly did not want to go to confession at this parish. The possibility of speaking his most private thoughts to Mr Collins was by no means wanted.
After the service had concluded, Lady Catherine had sent Colonel Fitzwilliam to Mr Collins to invite his relations to Rosings. The invitation was of course accepted, and at the proper hour the party arrived and joined them in the drawing room.
As they entered, Darcy had to remind himself to keep in control and to not show Elizabeth any particular regard. This was rather difficult, as his heart wanted the exact opposite.
Her ladyship received them civilly, but it was plain that their company was by no means so acceptable as when she could get nobody else; and she was, in fact, almost engrossed by her nephews, speaking to them, especially to Darcy, much more than to any other person in the room. Darcy found this especially irritating as he wanted to have the freedom to speak with Elizabeth.
Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; any thing was a welcome relief to him at Rosings. There was little to do at his aunt's home and Darcy could understand that his cousin was rather bored and tried to alleviate this boredom by visiting the Parsonage.
But surely he could have some other form of entertainment than spending time in Elizabeth's company.
He now seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably and conversed with so much spirit and flow, as to draw the attention of Lady Catherine herself as well as of Darcy, whose resistance to interrupt the pair was very creditable. Lady Catherine, however was not able to resist calling out,
"What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is."
"We are speaking of music, Madam," said he, when no longer able to avoid a reply.
"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully."
Darcy tried not to smile at his aunt's speech.
"How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?"
Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister's proficiency.
"I am very glad to hear such a good account of her and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect to excel, if she does not practise a great deal."
"I assure you, Madam," he replied, "that she does not need such advice. She practises very constantly."
"So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I next write to her, I shall charge her not to neglect it on any account. I often tell young ladies, that no excellence in music is to be acquired, without constant practice. I have told Miss Bennet several times, that she will never play really well, unless she practises more; and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she is very welcome, as I have often told her, to come to Rosings every day, and play on the piano forte in Mrs. Jenkinson's room. She would be in nobody's way, you know, in that part of the house."
Darcy was ashamed of his aunt's lack of tact and politeness and did not answer.
Just because you are of a higher class does not mean that you can behave in such a manner towards them.
Mr and Mrs Collins said nothing but praise of Lady Catherine and her relations and Miss Lucas said nothing at all. Anne de Bourgh was silent for most of the evening, save when she raised her hankerchief to her face to sneeze of cough into it.
Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of having promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to the instrument. He drew a chair near her. Darcy sent a brief angry glare towards his cousin but soon stopped himself. Lady Catherine listened to half a song, and then talked, as before, to her other nephew; till the latter walked away from her, and moving with his usual deliberation towards the piano forte, stationed himself so as to command a full view of the fair performer's countenance, as well as to cut off any intimate conversation Elizabeth and cousin might be sharing. Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first convenient pause, turned to him with an arch smile, and said,
"You mean to frighten me, Mr Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me."
Intimidate you? Why would I wish to do that?
"I shall not say that you are mistaken," he replied, "because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know, that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own."
Elizabeth laughed heartily at this, and said to Colonel Fitzwilliam, "Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr Darcy, it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire - and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too, for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out, as will shock your relations to hear."
I doubt that. I believe I have always acted, and always will, act in a gentlemanly manner towards people, and especially you, Elizabeth.
"I am not afraid of you," said he, smilingly.
How can any one be afraid of someone he admires so greatly? At times, Darcy still was reluctant to acknowledge the fact the Cupid's arrow had finally found him.
"Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of," cried Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I should like to know how he behaves among strangers."
"You shall hear then - but prepare yourself for something very dreadful."
Darcy tried to think of what could be so terrible and did not find anything.
"The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball - and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances! I am sorry to pain you but so it was. He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr Darcy, you cannot deny the fact."
Colonel Fitzwilliam had been laughing at this rendition, while Darcy mentally kicked himself for the thousandth time for refusing the offer for dancing with Elizabeth for the first time at that long-ago Meryton Assembly.
"I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party," said he, implying that it would have been an honour to know her especially.
"True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room. Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders."
"Perhaps," said Darcy, trying to defend his actions that evening, "I should have judged better, had I sought an introduction, but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers."
He said this as an oblique apology for his behaviour that evening, which she would hopefully understand. Though he did not see what was so bad about his manner that evening. But if Elizabeth found fault in it, he was quite happy to make amends for it.
"Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?" said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"
"I can answer your question," said Fitzwilliam before Darcy could answer, "without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble."
"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."
"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault - because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."
Darcy smiled, and said, "You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you, can think any thing wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers."
Elizabeth did not reply but looked at him without smiling as if trying to comprehend his remark. Darcy held his breath, wondering if he had said too much.
Here they were interrupted by Lady Catherine, who called out to know what they were talking of. Elizabeth immediately began playing again. Lady Catherine approached, and, after listening for a few minutes, said to Darcy,
"Miss Bennet would not play at all amiss, if she practised more, and could have the advantage of a London master. She has a very good notion of fingering, though her taste is not equal to Anne's. Anne would have been a delightful performer, had her health allowed her to learn."
Darcy took little notice of this, and never took his eyes off Elizabeth. He observed she was watching him carefully.
Colonel Fitzwilliam was also watching him.
Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth's performance, mixing with them many instructions on execution and taste. Elizabeth received them with all the forbearance of civility while Darcy felt more and mopre ashamed of his aunt's ill-breeding. At the request of the gentlemen, Elizabeth remained at the instrument till her ladyship's carriage was ready to take them all home.
After they had left, Lady Catherine spent nearly an hour criticising Mr Collins, his wife, Miss Lucas and most of all, Elizabeth. Darcy got the impression his aunt was not pleased with Elizabeth's refusal to bow before her status like Mr Collins did.
Soon the ladies retired to their chambers. Darcy made as if to leave as well, but was stopped by Colonel Fitzwilliam who asked if he could have a word with him.
"What about, cousin?" asked Darcy, hoping it was not about Elizabeth.
"Have I done something to offend you, Darcy?"
"No," replied he, "of course not."
"Are you quite certain? Hardly a day goes by in which you do not glare at me. It mostly occurs after I return in the afternoons."
Darcy did not answer. He didn't even know he had directed angry looks in his cousin's direction - it was being done unconciously.
"And this evening when I was with Miss Bennet at the instrument, you seemed particularly resentlful," added the Colonel.
Darcy flinched, he did not know he had been so obvious.
"Is it something to do with Miss Bennet?" pressed his cousin when Darcy did not answer.
Darcy looked at Colonel Fitzwilliam. He wanted so much to tell someone, to confide in someone of his turmoil and feelings, but he could not. The words froze in his mind. He could not, would not tell a soul. He was afraid, he was not used to sharing or revealing his feelings in case of being exposed, vulnerable and open for amusement.
Colonel Fitzwilliam waited expectantly for an answer.
Darcy sighed wearily.
"Forgive me if I decline to answer, cousin." He walked away to the stairs to his own bedroom, with Colonel Fitzwillaim staring after him.
Darcy knew that declining to answer the question practically told his cousin that Elizabeth was part of Darcy's odd behaviour lately. His cousin certainly was clever, and he wouldn't be surprised if the Colonel knew Darcy had . . . . feelings for Elizabeth. Thankfully, if he did know, he would be tactful enough not to say anything about it unless Darcy himself brought up the subject.
Darcy did not plan to.
He lay awake for sometime. He had never known love before, not love as a man feels for a woman, though he certainly knew what love between a brother and sister or father and son was. Love for Elizabeth was an entirely new feeling for him.
Darcy was rather afraid of anything outside his experience sometimes for he knew not how or what to do. With love, though he had 'lived in the world' as Elizabeth had said, he was only learning. He had to admit though, being in love had its pleasure as well as its pain.
But learning is difficult, more so when one has no teacher or example to learn from.
All he could do was try his best, and make no mistakes along the way.
That morning, before he left the house for the Park, he was intercepted by Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"A week has passed since our arrival here. Should I begin to make arrangements for our departure?"
"No," he curtly replied.
His cousin looked at him with surprise.
"This is surprising. Is there any reason for postphoning our journey to London?"
"This visit is quite agreeable. And you must admit that the country is far superior to Town . . . " He trailed off. Why was he explaining himself to Fitzwilliam?
"I do not need to tell you my motives! I am not ready to leave and that is final!"
Colonel Fitzwilliam was surprised by this outburst, but shrugged and said, "As you please."
Darcy turned to leave.
"I just hope you do not plan on staying too long, for Lady Catherine might take that as a sign that her dearest wish might finally be granted."
He stormed out the door.
I do not want to spend the rest of my life with Anne! he thought angrily. If I had to spend the rest of my life with someone it would be Elizabeth!
He stopped. That was a very interesting . . . and tempting question.
Don't be a fool. You are the master of Pemberley and she is but a gentleman's daughter of no importance in the world! said his mind.
She is important to you, and that is all that matters. said his heart.
Would you degrade yourself with a marriage to her? She has no family, connections or fortune. Have you forgotten your objections to Bingley marrying her sister? These objections appear with at least equal force in you own situation.
Love knows nothing of rank. Why else have you delayed your departure from Rosings? It is because she is here.
You have time - time to think about it and find the courage to propose.
Darcy remained there in the Park for some time while he thought but he did not see her. Firmly resolved that he would meet her this day, he decided to go to Hunsford itself.
He arrived and rang the bell, then amused himself by admiring the carefully tended gardens until the maid opened the door and let him in. She showed him into a room and closed the door leaving him an the room's only occupant alone together.
He had thought all the ladies to be within but to his surprise and delight, only Elizabeth was there.
"I understood you to be with Mrs Collins and her sister," he said to cover the silence.
"Mrs Collins and Mariah have only now gone into Hunsford villiage, you find me all alone today, Mr. Darcy."
"I beg your pardon, I would not want to intrude upon your privacy."
An uncomfortable silence followed, and Darcy sat down on a chair near the table. He rested his hat on his knee, a casual pose that covered his feelings.
What am I doing here?
He could not think of anything to talk of. Thankfully, she was the first to speak.
"How very suddenly you all quitted Netherfield last November, Mr Darcy!" said Elizabeth, "It must have been a most agreeable surprise to Mr Bingley to see you all after him so soon; for, if I recollect right, he went but the day before. He and his sisters were well, I hope, when you left London."
"Perfectly so - I thank you."
He hoped that would be all she would say about his friend. Do we have to talk about Bingley? The connection between Bingley and her sister was not one he wished to dwell upon.
"I think I have understood that Mr Bingley has not much idea of ever returning to Netherfield again?"
"I have never heard him say so; but it is probable that he may spend very little of his time there in future. He has many friends, and he is at a time of life when friends and engagements are continually increasing."
He was trying to subdue any hopes she might still harbour for a marriage between Bingley and her sister, Jane. He doubted Bingley would wish to return to Netherfield.
"If he means to be but little at Netherfield, it would be better for the neighbourhood that he should give up the place entirely, for then we might possibly get a settled family there. But perhaps Mr Bingley did not take the house so much for the convenience of the neighbourhood as for his own, and we must expect him to keep or quit it on the same principle."
Better for the neighbourhood or your sister?
"I should not be surprised," said Darcy, "if he were to give it up, as soon as any eligible purchase offers."
Elizabeth made no answer. She showed no signs of intending to speak, so Darcy decided to find a topic of conversation - one that he had a great deal of interest in. "This seems a very comfortable house. Lady Catherine, I believe, did a great deal to it when Mr Collins first came to Hunsford."
"I believe she did - and I am sure she could not have bestowed her kindness on a more grateful object."
"Mr Collins appears very fortunate in his choice of a wife."
Very fortunate that it is the former Miss Charlotte Lucas instead of my Elizabeth. Thank goodness she had the sense to refuse him!
The thought of seeing her shackled to that toady was disgusting.
"Yes, indeed; his friends may well rejoice in his having met with one of the very few sensible women who would have accepted him, or have made him happy if they had. My friend has an excellent understanding - though I am not certain that I consider her marrying Mr Collins as the wisest thing she ever did. She seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light, it is certainly a very good match for her."
Darcy could feel but slightly sorry for Mrs Collins, but it was overwhelmed by gratitude that it was she who was Mrs Collins and not Elizabeth.
If I did marry her, what would she think about living so far away from her family?
"It must be very agreeable to her to be settled within so easy a distance of her own family and friends."
But with Mrs Bennet, I would think that you could not live far enough away!
"An easy distance do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles."
It seemed that she would miss her family a great deal, so he tried to appease her.
"And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day's journey. Yes, I call it a very easy distance."
"I should never have considered the distance as one of the advantages of the match," cried Elizabeth. "I should never have said Mrs Collins was settled near her family."
I suppose with her country upbringing, she would not have travelled very far from her home.
"It is a proof of your own attachment to Hertfordshire. Any thing beyond the very neighbourhood of Longbourn, I suppose, would appear far."
"I do not mean to say that a woman may not be settled too near her family. The far and the near must be relative, and depend on many varying circumstances. Where there is fortune to make the expence of travelling unimportant, distance becomes no evil. But that is not the case here. Mr and Mrs Collins have a comfortable income, but not such a one as will allow of frequent journeys - and I am persuaded my friend would not call herself near her family under less than half the present distance."
But I have the means for you to see your family tolerably often - though your mother I could see less of.
But why would she miss Meryton? It's inhabitants - even most of her family - are below her.
Darcy drew his chair a little towards her, and said, "You cannot have a right to such very strong local attachment. You cannot have been always at Longbourn."
Elizabeth made no reply. Darcy cursed his tongue for having said too much too soon. He had to get away from her - before he lost his carefully kept control.
He got up to leave. She began to rise from her seat but he told her not to trouble herself and quickly left the house.
Darcy spent the rest of the day brooding on what to do. He was torn between his duty towards his family and his duty to himself. He could not forget or over look Elizabeth's family or situation in life. he knew that his relations - Lady Catherine especially - would strongly object to a marriage between them.
But do you really care?
(One more part . . . then fireworks . . . I promise!)
Part 21--The Calm before the Storm
Morning found Darcy again waiting in the park for Elizabeth. He told himself he was walking because it was a lovely day to be outdoors but it was difficult to lie to his heart.
This time he did not have to wait for she was already there.
They stood there for some while, Elizabeth's face unreadable but it seemed she took no pleasure in seeing him.
"Miss Bennet," greeted he.
"I hope this morning finds you well," he said for lack of anything else to say.
"I am quite well, thankyou," she replied. Elizabeth continued to walk past him, so he turned and walked in the same direction. She glanced at him with raised eyebrows, made as if to say something but silenced and did not protest.
They walked in an awkward silence - Darcy was too confused and nervous as to what to say to the woman with whom he was in love with.
Racking his mind for something to say, Darcy said, "Are you enjoying yor stay at Hunsford?"
She looked at him, as if trying to determine his thoughts.
"Yes I am. I have not seen my friend for some time, nor am I likely to see her after I leave. I doubt she will be leaving Kent for some time." The lady sighed. "She is now married and it seems married women have little time for visiting."
"And what is your opinion of Mr and Mrs Collins' happiness?"
She looked at him strangely.
He suddenly realised he knew very little about her. He knew her, but he did not know her.
"I mean, with your idea of marriage in general, is it a good match?"
"Did I not say, when you came to Hunsford, that it is a very good match for her?"
"Yes, but what is your opinion?"
"A marriage, where neither party can respect the other, it cannot be agreeable."
Darcy knew he held a great respect for her . . .
"A marriage which has love, respect and security is best. I believe Mr and Mrs Collins' situation has at least one of these."
Darcy imagined a marriage between them - would it have all that he wished?
"Oh . . . yes, Miss Bennet?"
"We are at the gate outside the Parsonage."
He was quite unwilling to leave.
"Good day, sir," said Elizabeth. She curtsied and opened the gate.
He felt a pang of regret as she walked up the path.
"Farewell . . . Elizabeth," he whispered under his breath.
She was to far away to hear him.
He visited the Parsonage with Colonel Fitzwilliam frequently. He rarely spoke during these visits, only for propriety's sake rather than from any wish to talk.
One of the things he was worried about was did Elizabeth care at all for his cousin?
He watched the two carefully, laughing and talking amongst themselves. It took great strength of will not to violently protest everytime they whispered to each other. He was envious of his cousin's ease in speaking to her.
Does she love him?
As time passed, Darcy became convinced that though Elizabeth certainly enjoyed the Colonel's company, she was not in love. Also, had not his cousin assured him that he had no plans in that direction? Richard Fitzwilliam needed a wife with fortune and Elizabeth did not have that.
With that matter concluded, he turned his mind back to the problem of should he or shouldn't he marry Elizabeth?
All the reasons why not were clear. All the reasons why he should were not so clear but much more powerful. Actually, it was only reason - love.
Darcy looked at her again. The way she smiled, the way her eyes sparkled when she laughed was enough to make him grip his chair tightly to retain his control.
He forced his eyes to move and as they searched the room, he realised Mrs Collins was watching him.
Darcy knew Mrs Collins was a observant, practical woman and he feared she had noticed his attentions to Elizabeth. What if she told Elizabeth of it?
God damn it, does she know what agony she is putting me through?
He lay awake most of the night trying to determine what to do.
Darcy had realised that he could not imagine his life without her. Whatever paths he imagined his life taking, he wanted ith all his heart and soul to take those paths with Elizabeth at his side.
Then propose to her before you leave.
His heart froze with fear. To admit his love to himself was one thing - to say it aloud to the woman he loved was quite another. Never in his life had he exposed his innermost feelings to anyone or opened himself to hurt and ridicule. What if she said no? How much would that hurt?
Come now, why would she refuse you? No woman in her right mind could refuse you. There is no reason why she should not - in fact there is every reason in the world why she should.
That is very true . . . . __________________________________________________________
"Shall we leave tomorrow, cousin?" asked Colonel Fitzwilliam on Tuesday.
"No. Let us wait to Saturday, shall we?"
"Another delay? 'Tis rather unusual. Have you suddenly developed a fondness for Lady Catherine's company? and Anne? Or have you resigned yourself to matrimony and plan to make a proposal before we leave Kent?" he jested.
A proposal - How does he know I am planning to propose to Elizabeth? thought Darcy. Before he could return a sharp reply to his cousin, he realised Colonel Fitzwilliam was referring to Anne.
He cringed from the thought of telling Elizabeth exactly what he felt for her.
Darcy realised his cousin was looking at him strangely.
"I need time, Fitzwilliam."
The question, "Time for what?" was undoubtebly going through the Colonel's mind but Darcy left the house before his cousin couls ask it. ________________________________________________________
He needed peace to think, which was impossible to find at Rosings with his aunt there, so he again the next morning went to the walk. It had the added bonus of metting Elizabeth as well.
Darcy walked down the path at a fast pace, deep in thought.
What do I say in a proposal? Do I tell her how I love her, my struggles in overcoming my objections?
He wanted so much to ask her to marry him, and yet could't find the courage to do so.
Not knowing where he was going, he walked into Miss Bennet before he realised she was there.
"Oh! Miss Bennet, I do apologise," he said, half-bowing to cover his shock and feeling of pleasure when he had touched her. Though he knew such thoughts were scandalous, he did not reject them.
Elizabeth did not reply but bent down to retrieve her bonnet which had fallen to the ground. He also bent down and picked it up. He handed it to her and she accepted it with a nod of thanks.
They stood there for some minutes afterwards, just looking at each other. Darcy knew this was the time to speak, but the words would not come out.
"I seem to be meeting you quite often in the Park, Mr Darcy," said Elizabeth finally.
"It is my aunt's property; I am able to come here whenever I please. Whoever stays at Rosings has leave to go wherever he or she wishes. Would you not like that?"
"I would. But I am not staying in Lady Catherine's house."
"That may change."
A light blush spread over her as he spoke. He could not read her expression, but she seemed slightly embarassed. She smiled at him and said, "Whatever you mean I do not pretend to know. Besides, it is unlikely I shall be coming to Kent again."
"You may, sooner than you expect."
She did not reply to that.
Have I been too obvious? Surely she must know by now!
Elizabeth resumed walking, and Darcy unconciously turned and walked with her. She stopped and looked at him.
"Do you plan on accompanying me to the gate again?"
He did not want to say yes in case his meaning was misinterpreted.
"No . . . not quite."
Apparently satisfied with this answer, she continued her walk. Darcy kept pace beside her, not close, but not far either.
They didn't speak for much of the walk - a few formalities but nothing further. Darcy was qite content with that arrangement - he was content with looking at the woman he hoped would be his wife.
On Friday afternoon, Colonel Fitzwilliam was about to leave for his annual tour of the park. Darcy was grateful for his absence as it gave him the peace to think.
You are leaving tomorrow. You cannot put off your departure any longer - you must ask her today!
Finally resolved on doing so, it only remained to figure out how to go about it.
Be honest with her. You are doing her a great favour, a great honour. Tell her you know that you are going against the wishes of your family and duty, but you don't care.
This is the most practical offer anyone has and will give her. It would be insane for her to say no to you. She should be honoured a man of your position is even thinking of matrimony to her.
You have thought over this carefully. You know what you are doing. You know that your proposal might seem rash, irresponsible, even juvenile, you know your family will be angry, that you will be frowned upon, that your social positions are very different. You have considered all these things and you find that your love for her is so overwhelming that all these objections are insignificant. Tell her all your objections so she will understand, tell her how much you admire and love her.
Darcy smiled to himself as he looked out the window towards Hunsford.
Now there was only the problem of getting Elizabeth alone to ask her.
He heard voices in the hall way. He looked out to see that the party from Hunsford had arrived. He searched for Elizabeth - maybe he could ask her to go for a walk outside.
Darcy did not see her. There was Mr and Mrs Collins, Miss Lucas and his cousin but no Elizabeth.
"There you are Darcy," said the Colonel. "Miss Bennet will not be joining us here tonight . . . "
Mr Collins interrupted, "Yes, I am afraid, my dear sir, that my fair cousin has been taken ill with a headache and so has remained at my humble abode and she sends her regrets that she cannot join us this evening . . . "
Darcy did not hear any more of Mr Collins' speech.
Elizabeth was at Hunsford - alone.
"Fitzwilliam," he said absently. "Make my apologies to Lady Catherine - I have a matter of business to attend to."
He turned, took his hat and walking stick and left the house before Fitzwilliam could ask where he was going.
Outside Rosings, Darcy took a deep breath, then set out for the Hunsford Parsonage, where Elizabeth Bennet was alone.
Part 22 -- Love, Hate and Pride and Prejudice
Darcy arrived at the door of the Hunsford Parsonage, his heart beating wildly. In a few moments he would look upon Elizabeth's face and tell her that he loved her. He would ask her for her hand in marriage. In his mind he imagined his aunt's fury, his cousin's surprise and Elizabeth's delight.
Before ringing the bell, he paused to check his appearance in the window. He looked at himself, took a deep breath, then rang the bell.
The door was opened by the maid. In a lowered voice he asked to see Elizabeth. The maid nodded then led him to a room.
"In here sir," said the maid. Darcy took no notice but walked into the room. The door shut behind him.
"Forgive me, I hope you are feeling better," said he automatically.
Elizabeth stood there and stared at him. Darcy did not look at her but went to the mantle then turned to face her.
"I thank you, I am," replied Elizabeth quietly. Darcy wondered if her headache had put her into a bad mood. But that did not matter - he had news that would no doubt lighten her spirits immensely.
The moment he told his tongue to move, it froze. His courage failed him.
He turned to her. She did not smile.
"Would you not sit down?" she continued.
Darcy heard her speak but the words did not register. In the end, she took her own advice and sat down on the chair beside the table.
He stared at the clock, trying to think of how to begin. He walked in an agitated manner around the room. To stop himself from lapping the room, he sat down uncomfortably on the edge of the chair, but no sooner than he had done so, he sprang up again and paced the room again. Pausing, he looked at her, panic rising slowly at her puzzled and impatient expression. Darcy drew breath to speak. Never in his whole life had he willfully admitted his most intimate feelings to anyone, and he was finding it extremely difficult to say what he had kept close to his heart for such a long time. His courage failed him and the moment passed without him saying a word. Nervously he twisted his ring.
The tense silence grew, if that were possible, more tense. Darcy stared at Elizabeth and stood in front of her.
Just say it!
Finally, adrenalin and tension forced him to blurt out,
"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
The moment the words were out of his mouth he felt a profound relief flood over him. He had kept his love inside him for so long and when he had finally said it, it felt very good.
After pausing for a moment, feeling very pleased with himself, he looked at the lady to whom he had declared his love to.
The lady herself was staring with an expression of total astonishment upon her fair countenance. She stared, coloured and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and he continued with his proposal.
"In declaring myself thus I am fully aware that I will be going expressly against the wishes of my family and friends and I hardly need add, my own better judgement. The relative situation of our families is such that any alliance between us must be regarded as a highly reprehensible situation."
Might as well let her know what she is in for in our marriage.
He paused for breath and did not look at her, concentrating on the words rather than their effect on Elizabeth.
"Indeed in a rational manner I cannot regard it such myself but it cannot be helped."
Darcy was now struggling for words. What else could he say apart from the clich»d,
"Almost from the earliest moments of our aquaintance I have come to feel for you a . . . . passionate . . . admiration and . . . regard which despite my struggles has overcome every rational objection and I beg you, most feverently to relieve my suffering and consent to be my wife."
He refused to say any more. If he had, it might give her the impression that she was coming into this marriage as an equal, instead of a sub-ordinate. He had said enough, and now all that remained was to wait for her agreement.
After a few moments silence, she spoke, quietly and calmly.
"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, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation."
Darcy, who was leaning against the mantle-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. Her words did not register; he did not at first comprehend them.
What?! How dare she - !
His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it.
She cannot be serious! She cannot do this to me!
At length, in a voice of forced calmness, he said,
"And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavour at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of small importance."
"I might as well enquire," replied she, "why, with so evident a design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character? Was not this some excuse for incivility, if I was uncivil?" Her voice began to rise. "But I have other provocations. You know I have. 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?"
What on earth - ! How did she know about that?
Darcy changed colour; but the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she continued, though this decision was more from the shock the sudden knowledge of her immovable dislike of him produced.
"I have every reason in the world to think ill of you. No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there. You dare not, you cannot deny that you have been the principal, if not the only means of dividing them from each other, of exposing one to the censure of the world for caprice and instability, the other to its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind."
He listened with an air which proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse. He even looked at her with a smile of affected incredulity. Why should he feel remorse for his actions? His seperation of the two was necassary and he was actually proud of the fact that he had done it with so little fuss to anyone.
"Can you deny that you have done it?" she repeated.
"I have no wish to deny it. I did every thing in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself."
I do not need to explain myself to you, foolish woman!
"But it is not merely this affair," she continued, "on which my dislike is founded. Long before it had taken place, my opinion of you was decided when I heard Mr Wickham's story of your dealings with him."
WICKHAM?! What does he have to do with any of this?
"On this subject, what can you have to say? In what imaginary act of friendship can you here defend yourself? or under what misrepresentation, can you here impose upon others?"
"You take an eager interest in that gentleman's concerns," said Darcy in a less tranquil tone, and with a heightened colour.
No, this cannot be happening! First Georgiana, now Elizabeth has fallen under his spell!
"Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help feeling an interest in him?"
"His misfortunes!" repeated Darcy contemptuously; "yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed."
"And of your infliction," cried Elizabeth with energy. "You have reduced him to his present state of poverty, comparative poverty. You have withheld the advantages, which you must know to have been designed for him."
What is this nonsense?!
"You have deprived the best years of his life, of that independence which was no less his due than his desert. You have done all this! and yet you can treat the mention of his misfortunes with contempt and ridicule!"
He was shocked at hearing that she believed Wickham's account instead of his. Anger as he had felt only in Ramsgate last summer, flared up.
"And this," cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room, "is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed!" Finally finding control of his emotions, he realised a reason for her rejection of him.
Her bitter accusations are made out of a resentment of my voicing the objections to a marriage with her.
A desire to lash out at the one who had caused hurt to him rose.
"But perhaps," added he, stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, "these offences might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design." Standing above her he continued, "These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I with greater policy concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination - by reason, by reflection, by every thing. But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?"
Elizabeth had turned away from him, but now she turned to face him.
"You are mistaken, Mr Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner."
Darcy started, stunned.
"You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it!"
The shocks were coming fast and thick. His mind reeled with every blow. He could not register what she had said - it was so impossible and unbelievable to him.
"From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
Darcy winced with every harsh word. He could not believe it. In a space of a few minutes, his world had been turned upside down. Doubts about himself that he had never thought of before began to surface in his mind. Was her picture of him accurate?
The last man in the world whom she could ever marry.
The words hurt deeply.
His control of the situation (if he had ever had it) was lost. Humiliated, he resolved on leaving that very moment.
"You have said quite enough, madam," he said coldly, "I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness."
And with the shreds of his dignity that he still retained he curtly bowed and let himself out of the room, his mind in chaos and plagued by doubt.
Continued in Part 4
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