Darcy Comes Calling
Summary: The account of the various times Mr. Darcy came to call on Elizabeth after their engagement. Mrs. Bennet is unbearable, Kitty is frightened, Jane and Bingley are oblivious, and the lovers get a harsh does of reality. All is happy in the end, though. (<:
"I'm learning to fly, like a bird in the sky. I'm learning to try the wings of love. I'm learning to fly, though it's going to take time, I'm just beginning to fly on the wings of love- I'm going to get there. I'm learning to trust, 'cause I know that I must. I'm joining the one who has given me love, and given me hope, knowing that I've just begun to to rise above and soar upon the wings..."
--"Learning to Fly", Solomon's Wish
Time #1- Oakham Mount
"...so, do not put yourself at an inconvenience."
Elizabeth stifled a smile and a sigh at the same time, the disasterous result of which was a grimace a strange cough. Her mother had just informed her that there was no need to talk to Mr. Darcy on their walk, if Elizabeth would rather not. The irony of their engagement was quite clear to her now. Ah, but she longed to get away from the house, in which her only comfort was Jane, away from all the comments about Darcy and how much she hated him (ha!). She carefully tied her bonnet under her chin and tried to put on an air of reluctance as she trod down the stairs, though she would have liked to skip joyfully. Darcy was doing an admirable job of looking ill at ease as usual, and she silently commended his efforts with a tiny smile aimed his direction, which luckily was seen only by himself and Bingley.
Darcy strode out of the door, his grey overcoat swishing behind him, and Elizabeth followed at a safe distance until they were out of sight of the house. She then ran to catch up with him and, eyes dancing, asked with a smile, "am I correct in guessing that you don't care three straws about Oakham Mount, to borrow one of my sister's expressions?"
"You do me discredit," he replied, his mouth stern but his eyes happy. "Do you think I would feign an interest in a mount just to spend time with you?"
"Yes," was the reply.
"Then you're right." He managed to maintain a straight face throughout this communication, but it broke into a grin with these words.
"I'm so glad you're finally here. Listening to my mother and young sisters is nigh unbearable. Of course, it was never a picnic to begin with, but it gets worse when they speak ill of you..."
"I deserve it," was the grim reply. "Every bit of it." The edge of self-anger sharpened his words.
"Hush, don't speak in such a way. You deserve none of it. You're too noble. Oh, lord, what shall I do?" This last sentence was half sigh and half laugh.
"About what?" Darcy said suddenly, as if she had awakened him from deep thought.
"About all this commotion. I just want it to be over!"
"It must be endured, much as we hate it."
"Yes, yes, but DO remind me, when our daughter is engaged, not to constantly give her little 'hints' on how to be a wife!"
The way in which she spoke of their having a daughter as if it was a sure thing delighted him. "Your mother means well, Lizzy."
"Mr. Darcy! I do beleive Jane is rubbing off on you!" Elizabeth joked.
"Heaven forbid!" Darcy exclaimed in mock mortification.
She was silent for a moment, then "poor Miss Bingley!"
"Your thoughts are certainly absent today."
"Yes, well, forgive me. I cannot imagine how our dear Caroline is suffering."
"Yes, Caroline Bingley, with an intellect rivalled only by that duck over there-" he indicated a young flapper trying out his wings on the surface of the lake "- is wondering at this very moment, I doubt not, what to do with herself."
"Why THAT duck, may I ask?"
"Because it looked particularly stupid."
"I never knew you capable of such malace," Elizabeth joked.
"I'm unfair to Miss Bingley- I'm sure she's quite clever."
"Not clever enough to realize that you never took any interest in her."
"Not clever enough to realize that I would have liked her better if she hadn't paid so much attention to me. As it was, I found the whole thing disgusting."
"I must admit I got a great deal of amusement out of watching you two. Though, if I'd realized she was jealous of me early on, I would have enjoyed it more."
"What is there to admit? You saw me smiling at the antics of your lovely cousin Mr. Collins. I daresay we have a fair bit of amusement we owe to each other's strange circles of family and aquaintances."
"Like Lady Catherine DeBourgh? She thinks she can frighten people merely because she is great and wealthy."
"As did I, once," Darcy smiled.
"I think I gave her a bit of a shock when I- horror of horrors!- expressed an actual opinion about something. And that is where I begin to see, in hindsight, the differences between you two."
He groaned. "And, please God, there are many."
"Yes, but they begin at the root of the problem. She found my impertinence irritating. But you-"
"I found it enchanting."
"And that, as I said, is the heart of the matter," Elizabeth continued, willing herself not to blush (so, of course, she did). "What gives? There's something about you that causes you to break off from her just at that point."
"Any higher up, and I wouldn't blame you for despising me. I wouldn't blame you for it NOW, come to think of it..."
"I could no more despise you after that meeting at Pemberley than I could despise Bingley at the inn at Lambton. You were too good, too obliging, too friendly. Your sister wanting to meet me was the crux of it all- I knew you didn't hate me, for her only source of information about myself was you. If you had spoken well of me, then you must not hold it against me that I had been rather angry with you- for a time."
"That's what frightens me." His voice and countenance were grim again. "My manners had TOO MUCH and effect on your opinion of me. You really should have looked inside..."
"But, for the first time," Elizabeth exclaimed, feeling as if she'd finally come to a great and wondrous conclusion, "On that day, your manners expressed what was REALLY inside. You see?"
"I cannot judge myself."
"But I began to like you as soon as Wickham's story was discredited. Your behavior at Pemberley served only to astonish me. I would have thought almost as highly of you if we had never met."
"But if we hadn't," Darcy mused, "Georgiana, who, I beleive, had a great effect on you, would never have seen you. I wouldn't have happened upon you just after reading those letters from Jane-"
"I can't tell you how I nearly killed myself after I told you that. I thought I should never see you again..."
"What about this famous Oakham Mount, anyway?" Darcy seemed to wake up from a reverie.
"It's just up ahead."
As they rounded the bend, even Darcy was taken in by the scene before him. The sky was tinted blue and pink, with wisps of white clouds strung all over it. The willow trees were reflected in the clear water of the lake, and a soliatary bird- perhaps Miss Bingley's intellectual rival- paddled silently across its glassy surface, disturbing a few ripples as it went. It left him breathless. And, of course, Elizabeth being there completed the whole scene. "Turn around," she suggested softly. The other side of the mount showed a magnificent scene of Netherfeild and the moors beyond.
They must have stood there for a full ten minutes before they turned and walked slowly back in the direction of Longbourne. They said nothing on nearly the whole trip back, except to resolve that Mr. Bennet's consent should be asked that evening. Nothing more needed to be said.
Time #2- On Horseback
Darcy's black mare cantered down the road to Longbourne. He was impatient to see Elizabeth again, but he wouldn't urge his poor horse on any faster. The dear thing was already tired out from carrying him to and from Longbourne several times a day, not to mention all his other excursions from Netherfeild.
As he neared the house, he saw the very lady he was seeking sitting on the edge of the riverbank. He stopped his mount, slid off as quietly as he could, and walked silently across the tall grass. He was sucessful in stopping no more than a foot from where she sat without her noticing. He paused, wondering how to best address her. "Do you make a habit of sitting alone often, Miss Bennet? I should think it would become tiresome, after a while..."
She leapt to her feet, whirling 'round. "Mr. Darcy!" she exclaimed, wide-eyed.
"Wait a moment!" he replied, smiling. "I want to keep a running tally of the number of times you've uttered my name in complete astonishment. That makes five, I beleive."
"I can't tell you how happy I am to see you. My mother is as overbearing as ever, and my father is still quite sad. I can see it, though he attempts to hide it. He feels like he's losing his little girl. I know. Anyway, it was awful of you not to tell me when you were coming. I had no idea-"
"That was the point," he grinned. "If I didn't preserve some air of mystery, I should, I fear, become far too accessable. Then you might think me too easy to catch." All of this was delivered in a tone that left no doubt of his lack of seriousness.
"You'd better be careful with yourself, indeed. I'm in great danger of casting you off..."
She suceeded in getting him to laugh, which was no common occurence. But the mirth soon dissolved into seriousness. "Elizabeth- when did you begin to love me?"
Difficult question, indeed...coloring slightly, and unable to meet his earnest gaze, she began to think. "Perhaps..." they were near the house, she perceived, and they entered as she spoke. "It must have been some time at Pemberley...perhaps when I saw your portrait...perhaps when I was standing at the piano...I don't know. Truly, I don't." But her liveliness soon returned as she exclaimed, "but what about you, Mr. Darcy? How could you begin? I can comprehend your going on charmingly...."
The rest of the conversation is known to you.
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