Chapter 1: In London.
Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy sat back in his favourite chair in his London library. He selected a book and poured himself a glass of port. That's what he liked above all the pleasures of London: an evening of calm away from the rest of the world. The fire burned well so he was warm. Georgiana has gone to visit some friends with her companion Mrs Annesley. He opened the book and began to read:
Is it thy will thy image should keep open
My heavy eyelids to the weary night?
Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,
While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?
Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee
So far from home into my deeds to pry
To find out shames and idle hours in me,
The scope and tenour of thy jealousy?
Oh no! thy love though much is not so great:
It is my love that keeps mine eye awake
My own true love that doth my rest defeat,
To play the watchman ever for thy sake.
For thee watch I, whilst thou doth wake elsewhere,
From me far off, with others all too near. (*)
The book fell from Darcy's hands. Why does this sonnet seems so real to me? Of course, Elizabeth! He thought back when he last saw her and that fateful day when he asked her to be his wife. Instead of seeing love in her eyes that he so dearly wished, she looked upon him with contempt and hate. He thought when he had given his letter that it was finished and resolved not ever think of her again. He prided himself to have succeeded but this sonnet made him realise he was not at all over it.
He relived the whole scene at the Hunsford parsonage and his words this fateful day. How could I say those things? No wonder she refused me! How could I insult her and her family so? Her angry words came flooding back "had you behaved in a more gentleman like manner!", "Your manners impressed me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others" How true! She made light of my behaviour! How I respect her now! She is a woman who only marries for love and not for material reasons! I am ashamed to think she would be very happy to accept me! I see now she never encouraged me at Hunsford! Blind and fool man!
He remembered the last line of the sonnet "From me far off, with others all too near." She is far from me because of my own stupid pride! How I could say she was 'not handsome enough to tempt me"? I know now she is the only woman in England who can tempt me. She is too close to... George Wickham. He hoped she believed his letter as concerned Wickham, but he was so bitter and angry when he wrote it. My god! If that scoundrel does any harm to her, I could not bear it!
She gave him a new insight into himself. He saw now that his arrogance and his insistence on the preservation of rank cut him off from very interesting people and from a woman he very much wanted to become more than an acquaintance! People can be good despite their humble stations. I must exercise myself to talk more and get interested in other people's lives and interests and not be so self-centered! Maybe she will hear of the new Darcy and change her mind! But no, that's impossible I have turned her from me forever! Oh Elizabeth! Find it in you heart to forgive me, please. I promise I would do better from now on!
Darcy kept his promise. His friends and acquaintances were surprised to see the softer and more accessible Darcy. Darcy himself found he was much happier than before. But his mind was in turmoil. Every night he dreamed of her. He alternated between nightmares of the proposal at Hunsford and dreams of considerable happiness when he imagined Elizabeth as his wife.
Finally he decided to come back to Pemberley. He missed his home! His business with his steward caused him to come back earlier. The rest of the party, Bingley and his sisters and Georgiana, would arrive some time later.
(*) Shakespeare's sonnets: Sonnet LXI (61)
Chapter 2: Pemberley.
At last Pemberley! He thought when he caught sight of his natal home. He was hot and decided to take a swim in his lake. A quarter of hour later, he scolded himself. Get out man, your business awaits you! He motioned one stable groom to take his horse to the stables and stepped determinably towards his house. When he saw a form he recognized to be the lady of his thoughts, he stopped dead short. That is not possible! I must be dreaming! She cannot be in my house!
"Mr Darcy!" cried a very surprised and flustered Elizabeth Bennet.
"Miss Bennet!" he echoed equally surprised. She is real, my god! And she talks to me!
"I did not expect to see you...sir! We understood all the family were from home, or we should never have presumed..."
"I returned a day early" And I thank God that I did! Remember Darcy; be polite and civil to her! "Excuse me; your parents are in a good health?"
"Oh yes, they are very well. I thank you, sir"
"I'm glad to hear it. How long have you been in this part of the country?"
"But two days, sir" Why did I not come back early?
"And where you are staying?"
"Lambton Inn, sir" Not five miles from my own home! Luck seems to be with me thus far!
"Ah, I'm just arrived myself... And your parents are in good health and all your sisters?" Darcy, you idiot, you had already asked this question!
"Yes they are all in excellent health, sir," said Elizabeth with a small laugh.
Suddenly Darcy realised one cause of her discomfort might be his disheveled appearance. So he hurried into his house to change his clothes. Fortunately, he succeeded in catching Elizabeth before she reached the carriage. He asked her opinion about Pemberley. And she likes it very much! I hope Pemberley will become your house one day, dearest Elizabeth! Then realising she was not alone, he asked if she could introduce him to her companions. Remember her censure that you snubbed her and her relations. That is time to make amends.
"Certainly" she said "Mr and Mrs Gardiner, Mr Darcy. Mrs Gardiner is my aunt, my sister Jane stayed in their house in Cheapside when she was lately in London."
Darcy was surprised to discover that the Gardiners were not only people of fashion but also intelligent and cordial. His conversation with Mr Gardiner about fishing proved very interesting. Mr Gardiner was well informed, and educated and a pleasure to talk to. His pleasure increased when Mrs Gardiner came to take her husband's arm leaving Darcy to walk beside Elizabeth. She was at first very uncomfortable and tried to excuse her intrusion upon his privacy. How I did mind that! He reassured her when he said that no one was aware of his change of plans. As they walked, Darcy recollected one sonnet that he read several times in despair of his seeing her again.
So are you for my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet'season'd showers are to the ground,
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As' twixt a miser and his wealth is found:
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then better'd that the world may see my pleasure;
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight
And by and by clean starved for a look
Possessing or pursuing no delight,
Save what is bad or must from you be took.
Thus I do pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away. (*)
When it was time for Elizabeth and her relations to depart, Darcy handed Mrs Gardiner in the carriage then turned to Elizabeth who gave her hand to him to help her. He could almost hear his heartbeats resonating everywhere inside him when he felt the warmth of her hand and her body. Stop that, man! And she thanked him quite kindly with the most beautiful little smile. When they're off, she turned to look at him with approval before she disappeared. Oh dearest Elizabeth! I feel no delight when you are away! Why you can not stay with me? I want you to become part of my life! To know that you approved of me "feasting on your sight".
"Don't be so optimistic Darcy" he scolded himself "To know she no longer despises you doesn't mean she is in love with you but I will do anything I can to win her."
But at last, he will see her soon. She had agreed to meet his sister. He was sure Georgiana would be very happy to meet her. She is exactly what she needs to be more confident in society. Darcy sighed happily and returned to the house.
(*) Shakespeare's Sonnets: Sonnet LXXV (75)
Chapter 3: An Evening at Pemberley
Darcy paced in his drawing room at Pemberley. He was looking forward to seeing Elizabeth again. She had accepted an invitation for dinner for her and her relations at his home directed by his sister Georgiana. He was delighted to witness the friendship that was developing between the two most important women in his life. Dare he hope that she could be convinced to visit Pemberley with more length during her stay in Derbyshire? His daydream was interrupted by the noise of a carriage. He walked quickly to it. He helped the two women out of the carriage. My god she is so lovely! He greeted his guests and took them in the house. Mrs Gardiner took her husband's arm. Darcy offered his arm to Elizabeth who took it thanking him with a smile. What a delightful smile!
Georgiana then walked in to greet, shyly, her guests. Elizabeth immediately began to engage her in conversation. Darcy smiled tenderly to see that Georgiana seemed to be taken with Elizabeth. He failed to see the pleased expressions of the Gardiners. The behaviour of the young man confirmed what they already knew: that Darcy was very much in love with their niece. As for the feelings of Elizabeth, they were uncertain, but they could tell that her opinion of the owner of Pemberley improved considerably.
At last they adjourned to the sitting room where the other guests greeted them with coldness and condescension (the Bingley sisters of course!), and friendship. Finally, after a few moments of meaningless conversation, Georgiana said to Elizabeth: "Miss Bennet, yesterday you told me that you love music; will you do us the honour of playing, if you don't mind of course?"
"I wouldn't mind at all Miss Darcy, but you will no doubt see that I am not at all proficient."
"I'm sure you're too modest, Miss Bennet. Let us go to the music room then."
They all walked towards this room. Darcy carefully chose a seat next to Mr Gardiner. He left as much room as possible, secretly hoping that Elizabeth would sit next to him. Georgiana placed a few music sheets before Elizabeth. "Voi che sapete, Cherubino aria. That's my favourite piece," said she.
"That's my favourite aria too," said Georgiana. "Would you mind playing that for us?" what Georgiana neglected to tell Elizabeth that she knew it was her brother's favourite too, and she knew he would appreciate it.
"Of course I will play it, Miss Darcy, but would you be so kind as to help me turning the pages for me?" Georgiana nodded her assent and placed herself conveniently to allow Darcy a total view of Elizabeth.
As the first notes resonated in the room, everyone in the room hushed to listen to the performer. Darcy's heart began to pound madly in his chest when he recognized which aria she was singing. As she sang, his mind closed to everyone who was not she. He watched her beautiful voice, her bewitching eyes that glowed with pleasure of the music, her dark hair, and her lovely fingers as she pressed the ivory keys. He knew that his feelings could not be longer concealed and he smiled as he never smiled before. His love and adoration radiated from every part of his being. Another sonnet came to his mind when he listened to her.
How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway'st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more blest than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers me thy lips to kiss. (*)
He was interrupted in these heavenly reflections by the conclusion of the music and the subsequent applause. He joined eagerly in the acclamations. Elizabeth and Georgiana continued their conversation. Distracted, he gazed by the window when he sensed someone looking at him. He glanced up to discover Elizabeth and Georgiana smiling at him. Then Elizabeth encouraged his sister playing herself. Darcy was delighted; finally Georgiana played in front of someone who was not just her family.
Elizabeth smiled at him and began to walk in his direction but she was stopped by Miss Bingley who made some slighting remarks on the welfare of her family after the departure of the militia and more particularly of Mr Wickham. Darcy was disgusted and wanted to smite Miss Bingley for insulting his Elizabeth so cruelly and for making Georgiana uneasy. But Elizabeth reacted well and indifferently at the mention of this man and hurried to protect Georgiana. She was bent towards the piano, but she lifted her head and looked directly in his eyes. She smiled warmly. For this particular moment, their gazes were locked as they silently said all they both wanted to say aloud to the other. Their bodies were still in the room but their souls had already spoken and pledged their troth to one another.
For this one moment his guard was completely lowered. How he longed to have near her as his wife, to take her and his arms and kiss her! For her part, she realised that he was the only man she could ever love and share her future life. When it was time to depart, they parted with knowing smiles and affectionate looks.
Darcy was glad when his guests retired because he wanted to be alone with his thoughts of the enchanting woman he was now sure he would make his wife one day. He walked back to the music room and could almost see her smiling at him. When she smiles, her eyes smile too. In fact everything smiles in her! I must see her again! She agreed to come back to Pemberley tomorrow evening but I can't wait until then! No I must go to see her tomorrow morning! I don't want to stay away from her company for hours! Yes I will go tomorrow morning.
He went to bed determined to bring her back to Pemberley as soon as possible.
(*) Shakespeare's sonnets: Sonnet CXXVIII (128)
Chapter 4: The Engagement
Darcy entered the sitting room of Longbourn and bowed to Elizabeth deeply, trying to determine what could be her feelings behind her fine eyes. Is it possible that she feels the same for me? It is right for me to speculate on Lady Catherine's account?
Barely acknowledging the proposition of Bingley to walk towards Meryton, and Kitty's agreement, he would not move his gaze from her.
As they walked, Darcy tried to think of something to say but he was tongue-tied and words failed him. Finally after Kitty left them to visit Maria Lucas, he nearly sighed in relief. Finally they were alone. But before he could speak, Elizabeth did.
"Mr Darcy, I can no longer without thanking you for your kindness to my poor sister" How can she know of my role on the affair? "Every since I have known of it, I've been most anxious to tell you how grateful I am for my family and for myself" Oh no, please do not feel gratitude, I want your love! He thought when he painfully continued their walk. "You must not blame my aunt. Lydia betrayed it first..." Of course I could have thought that discretion is not a word Mrs Wickham seemed to know! "And I couldn't rest till I knew everything. I know what trouble and mortifications this must have cost you" It was worth it to crush my pride once and for all and to serve your comfort! "Please let me say this. Please allow me thank you on behalf of all my family since they don't know to whom they are indebted."
"If you will thank me," he replied "let it be for yourself alone. Your family owes me nothing. Much as I respect them I believe I thought only of you."
He heard Elizabeth sigh and couldn't restrain himself any longer. His love for her overpowered him and he continued: "You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged... but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever."
"Oh my feelings... my feelings are... I am ashamed to remember what I said then" You have nothing to be ashamed of, because I deserve every bit of it "My feelings are so different. In fact they are quite... the opposite."
Darcy for a moment could not say anything, or form logical or rational thoughts. He was overcome by his happiness. The woman of his dreams had agreed to become the better part of his soul and life.
"Miss Bennet... Elizabeth... I don't know what to say. I am amazed to think that you... return my affections, and that you wish me to be near you. That you agree for me to protect you, cherish you and love you till the rest of our lives."
Elizabeth blushed and said: "Mr Darcy, I long for a long time to tell you how much...I care for you. This day, you have made me a very happy woman. I love you so that I can hardly put words to all I feel!"
"My own one! You can not imagine how happy you have made me too!" He kissed gently her hands and they continued their walk.
Suddenly, Elizabeth said: "Fitzwilliam, please help me realise this is not a marvelous dream. That I will not wake up cold and alone."
He marvelled to hear her say his given name and pulled her to his arms silently comforting her. He looked into her eyes and mutely asked her permission. Elizabeth nodded slightly and Darcy bent his head to kiss softly her lips. He pulled back and saw love in her glistening eyes and great approval of his actions. He kissed her a second time with more passion and she responded with equal ardour. They both lost the sense of time as they were so well in the company of each other.
After they composed themselves, Elizabeth said. "We had better continue if we don't want to be late to supper my dear." Darcy nodded. As they walked, arm in arm, they talked of the visit of Darcy's aunt, of the first proposal at Hunsford, of the engagement of Jane and Bingley. The time passed most pleasantly, with sometimes several tender or passionate looks, especially when Darcy called her "dearest, loveliest Elizabeth". They separated reluctantly when they reached Longbourn. Darcy recalled a particular sonnet and whispered it as he watched her enter her home before following her some time later.
Those lips that love own hand did make
Breath'd forth the sound "I hate"
To me that languish'd for her sake.
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was us'd in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
"I hate" she alter'd with an end
That follow'd it as a gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
"I hate" from hate away she threw,
And sav'd my life saying "not you". (*)
(*) Shakespeare's sonnets: Sonnet CXLV (145)
(Well there you are. I confess I am quite proud to have written four chapters. I want to thank Cheryl for the invaluable help to post this story. I always though this last sonnet (145) was a kind of summary of Pride and Prejudice. This story is dedicated to Christine Tartamella for all the sweet messages she sent me.)
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