Watching her, his thoughts drifted back to the evening that he met her. How incensed he had become when he heard her tell her Mother that he was offensive, and when, turning his head slightly to glance at her and seeing a sassy smile on her face as she said she did not care for his good opinion, with an impertinent lifting of her brows over her large dark eyes, she had turned away, dismissing him from her mind.
How angry he had become at this. That this little country nobody should find his opinion of no consequence and dismiss him thus.
Later, by saying that he did not find her handsome enough to tempt him, when Bingley urged him to dance with her, he thought to himself that he put Miss Elizabeth Bennet in her place. Instead she had stood and walked by him with that same sassy smile and an impertinent chuckle, and crossing to where her friend was standing actually laughed at him--Fitzwilliam Darcy, one of the richest and most influential men in England. Did she not have any concept of who he was?
He turned from her and Charlotte to see his friend the Marquise Andre DeLasall, who had left France to flee the wrath of Boney, enter the hall to cross quickly to him and shake hands, telling him how surprised he was to see them there.
Looking beyond Darcy his face lit up as Miss Bennet approached with a smile of welcome on her face and giving both her hand to DeLasall had welcomed him warmly. Andre had returned her greeting in the same warm way.
"Mr. DeLasall how wonderful to see you, I understand that you are to wed soon, may I offer you my felicitations," she said.
"I have come here first to see if the woman I love has come to love me enough to marry me, before offering my hand to another," said Andre, to Darcy's surprise.
"Andre, Andre," she said, You know we cannot be man and wife, and you know that my reasons are sound. I should hate to lose you friendship to the marriage state," she said playfully.
"Ah well, if you will not marry me, at least dance this minuet with me," he replied in the same teasing manner.
Darcy himself stood up with Caroline Bingley for the same dance, but found himself watching DeLasall and his partner. Though she knew the steps well, Miss Bingley's steps were as stiff and formal as she was, while Miss Bennet seemed to float across the room with Andre, a merry smile on her face and her eyes dancing with her delight in the music and the dance, to the great pleasure of her partner.
He had become so incensed at her that when Miss Bingley asked him upon their return to Netherfield what he thought of the opinion of Miss Eliza Bennet being a local beauty, he had replied that he would as soon call her mother a wit. How soon he would regret those words and change his mind.
Darcy smiled as he remembered how in the ensuing days and weeks he had come to find Miss Elizabeth more and more fascinating.
He remembered in particular at a dinner at her Aunt's house when she had silenced a boring new member of the House of Lords who was a visitor of Sir William Lucas. He had been pontificating through the dinner until she had silenced him with a simple question, when he had started sputtering Sir William said "Now Miss Bennet, ladies cannot be expected to understand politics, let us get on with another subject that the ladies can better understand. He had caught her eye at this and leaning back in his chair and covering his mouth with his hand to cover the smile, she had raised an eyebrow quizzically at him making him smile even more.
Two nights later at the Lucases he was startled and much surprised too when she had refused to dance with him, this had never happened to him before but instead of being angry as he might have at an earlier time it seemed to make her that much more fascinating.
A few days later he and Bingley had returned to find Miss Jane Bennet in one of the bedrooms very ill indeed according to Miss Bingley.
The next morning he had risen early and eaten breakfast early and was taking a stroll around the park when who should he encounter but Miss Elizabeth Bennet, looking lovely though a little windblown and with very dirty petticoats walking around a clump of bushes at the edge of the property.
She had dropped a small curtsey and seeming to be out of sorts at finding him there and replied coolly to his question about her coming to Netherfield on foot, and asked where she might find her sister. When he offered to show her the way she walked briskly by him with her curls bouncing along her lovely nape bringing a smile to his face.
She had spent the first day, except for a few minutes when she had come into the breakfast room to tell Bingley that her sister was very ill, she had stayed upstairs with her sister.
The second evening she had come down after dinner.
She had come into the billiard room where he and DeLasall were shooting billiards. She stood in the doorway looking startled and then dropping her eyes she had disappeared as quickly as she had come leaving him there staring for a moment at the spot where she had stood with the light giving a soft glow to her lovely face and making her eyes look even larger and darker the usual, she had not even noticed that Andre was in the room.
DeLasalle had not missed her though she had not noticed him sitting in the large chair by the hearth.
Rising he had let out a sigh saying, " Elizabeth, Elizabeth fortunate indeed will be the man who wins her, if he has the patience and the tenderness to awaken the passion that lies sleeping behind those beautiful eyes."
"You cannot be serious in saying that she has refused your offer of marriage." said Darcy
"Indeed I am," replied DeLasall. "This is the third time as a matter of fact, the first when she was fifteen again at eighteen and this time and she has refused again."
"But you are a Marquis and will return to France to claim your title and estates when Boney is disposed of," said Darcy.
"Elizabeth is not impressed by wealth or titles but will only require love and respect in a husband," replied Andre sadly, "And though we are great friends she does not love me in the way she will love the man she will wed, I wish her joy and to the man who wins her I need not offer him anything for she will never take a lover and he will have no need of a mistress for his wife will be all that he will ever need."
Darcy walked out to the carriage with his friend The Marquis DeLasall, it was his last day at Netherfield before departing for London and Darcy knew he would miss him sadly. They had taken long rides together and the subject of many of their discussions was Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy could tell how much Andre respected and loved her but she would not marry him. This was a shock to Darcy, as any woman he knew would have accepted his offer for his wealth and titles, although she may despise him personally. Miss Bennet however refused not just once but thrice and though her reasons, as she and Andre agreed were sound, he could not understand her refusing such a man, the woman was an enigma.
"You speak of Miss Bennet's passion often," said Darcy. "How can you know that she is a passionate woman, if you and she have been like brother and sister all these years as you both have told me."
"Darcy, Darcy how like an Englishman, listen to her, mon amie, it is in her voice when you two are indulging in one of your sparring matches.
"She does like a good argument," said Darcy. She especially seems to like to try my patience and seems to enjoy disagreeing with me at every turn."
"Yet who was it who came to your defense against her mother, and tried to distract her from her abusing remarks about you , and tried desperately to divert her with questions about Miss Lucas, while your friends the Bingley sisters sat and giggled at your embarrassment."
Darcy was left speechless by this, having given it no thought before.
Andre had left him with the knowledge that Miss Elizabeth not her Father was the real manager of Longbourn. She had taken over the management from her Mother of the household affairs at the age of 14, so Andre had told him. Her Father, a slothful man, had gradually let her take over his duties as well, and by 16 she was in complete charge as everyone knew and of which she was completely unaware was common knowledge. Woe to the tradesman who tried to cheat her as she checked everything over again and again. The merchants were hoping she would soon marry and leave, so that they could escape her careful scrutiny and attention to detail, they wanted to get back to the old ways when they could fatten their pockets at her Father's expense, as he was now so careful as she.
This was amazing to Darcy, that one so young and lovely could manage an estate so competently.
He thought too of her devotion to her sister Jane, who she obviously held in the highest regard. Her nursing of her was a delight to see, Darcy could only hope that if his sister was as ill as Miss Jane Bennet someone would be as loving and caring of her as Elizabeth was of her sister.
As he walked into the Drawing room, Miss Bennet was engrossed in a book and didn't even look up as he came in. Mr. Hurst tried to talk him into a game, but he walked over and himself picked up a book and sat down to read. Caroline Bingley made a remark about how wonderful it was to spend a quiet evening reading, but her interest in her book was short lived. She walked up and down in front of him, but he chose to ignore her and kept his head down reading.
"Miss Bennet," he heard her say, "will you not take a turn around the room with me. It is so refreshing." When Elizabeth had put down her book to join her, he had closed his own book and to watch them. Somehow he could not remember just how he and Miss Bennet had started quarreling again, and she accused him of being vain and proud. He could not remember the details of what they said to each other but he did remember telling her that his good opinion once lost was gone forever. She in turn said that that was indeed a failing but she could not laugh at it. In anger he had told her that he thought that every person was imbued with some particular evil, to which she replied that his was a penchant to hate everyone. To which he had replied that hers was to deliberately misunderstand.
Her reply to this was that arrogance needed no great understanding except perhaps by those who might mistake it for pride.
He had become so incensed at this that he had stood up towering over her, glaring at her, but she had stood her ground, chin up returning his glare, until they were both brought to their senses when Caroline Bingley started to play loudly on the pianoforte and Elizabeth had excused herself to return to her sister. When she had left the room, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst had both started abusing her and everything about her until he left the room abruptly to go to his own room to cool down.
Nearly two hours later he still could not sleep and, walking to the window, saw a woman crossing the lawn, when his dog ran up to her he saw that it was Elizabeth Bennet, he had mistakenly thought it was a servant girl when he noticed her long hair blowing in the wind.
Well Miss Bennet this is a good time to settle the question of pride and arrogance out of the earshot of others, and putting on his boots and coat he started to follow her. She walked to the rise which looked down into a small valley behind the house. He had seen her disappear behind the tall hedge and knew where she was going, as it was a favorite spot of his too.
As he approached her he signaled to the dog with his had to stay. As he neared her, he heard her talking to Samson,
"I fear you are the only one I have to talk to Samson, Mr. Bingley is already so worried about Jane that I cannot burden him with my fears, the superior sister wish me miles away and the cold and arrogant Mr. Darcy would like nothing better than to shake me until my body parts fly to the ends of the earth. I am so afraid Samson, just when I think Jane is getting better, she seems to take a turn for the worse. She is asleep now but I must stay the night with her as she seems to have a fever again and sleeps restlessly."
Darcy was shocked indeed at her words. She had every right to be angry at them, neither he nor the Bingley sisters had been at all civil to her, and she was lonely and frightened with no one to talk to.
Darcy didn't know what to do about this, if he tried to talk to her she might be angry with him for listening to her private thoughts, so he turned and started back. He went around the hedge before thinking that someone must give her some comfort and he owed her that, considering his actions the last few days.
Turning back he met her coming around the hedge. "Mr. Darcy," she exclaimed "what are you doing here."
Darcy noticed the tears in her eyes and down her cheeks, it was a moonlit and the glistened in the bright moonlight.
Unable to think of anything to say, he stood there looking at her, and she started to go past him, but Samson, unnoticed by either of them, had laid a large branch at her feet, hoping that she would play with him. As she stumbled over it, he caught her in his arms and held her closely, burying his face in her soft sweet smelling hair, and the wind wrapped it around him like an embrace. He stood there holding her unable to let her go, saying softly, "your sister will be better, I know she will", as she cried softly on his chest.
Stepping back she said, "Oh, I am so sorry I did not mean to burden you, please forgive me."
"Please do not apologize," he said, "it is I who should apologize to you for not trying to help you when you were in need of a sympathetic ear."
"I have messed up your cravat with my foolish tears and you are so fastidious, pleŃ
He stopped her with his finger on her mouth, "It is of no consequence, none at all" he said and without a thought he bent and kissed her softly, to the surprise of both of them she returned his kiss and then he began to kiss her harder. She kissed back for an instant before stepping back and turning to the path back to the house. She rapidly walked away from him.
Shaken to the very core, he stood there for a moment savoring the salty taste of her teary lips before following after her. When they reached the door he said, "Miss Bennet I owe you and apology, but I am not truly sorry for kissing you."
"What need is there for you to apologize, she replied it would seem that I did my share of kissing. I do not understand it though, you and I get on like two tomcats in a barrel, that we should be kissing in the moonlight is a puzzle to me to say the least."
Darcy stood at the window watching the guests arrive wondering what he was doing here watching for the arrival of Elizabeth Bennet.
After the kiss at the hedge he had vowed to keep as much space between himself and Miss Elizabeth as possible. She had helped in this regard by spending most of her in her sister's room, even taking her meals there. The only time they had encountered each other was in the library when she had come in to select a book, but he had avoided eye contact with her and kept his head resolutely down to his own reading. Humming softly to herself she had quickly made a selection from the books that he had put on the table close to the door, books that he had put there that he planned to read himself.
The next day the Bennet sisters had departed to his relief for Miss Bingley was becoming more and more abusive of Miss Elizabeth and her presence was becoming more and more disturbing to him.
After the kiss he had walked back up the knoll where he had heard her talking to his dog, trying to find a reason for her effect on him he had stood there for some time.
No woman had ever raised such feeling in him before and he could not understand why this little country girl should be so disturbing to him.
Neither of the two mistresses he had taken had been so vexing as she. They had not occupied so much of his thoughts day and night as she did.
Darcy recalled the first when he was eighteen and he and three of his friends had gone to Italy after the school year and spent six months in Rome.
There the dissatisfied wife of a dissolute Count had taken him to her bed and introduced him to the world of passion and pleasure. He had no problem leaving her though as she had become too clinging and demanding of his time resenting any time spent with his friends.
The second was the lovely young French wife of an aging Earl.
She had taught him the rewards of patience and tenderness and how much pleasure was to be enjoyed by taking time to bring a woman to the height of desire before completing the act of love making.
Unfortunately she too had become demanding, first jewels and furs, but when she had begun to demand that he purchase a grand house for her and began to throw tantrums when he was hesitant his ardor had soon cooled. Making the excuse that he had urgent business at Pemberley he had left town for Derbyshire. His friend Bingley had warned him that she was planning a visit to Pemberley and he had left immediately for his estate in Scotland for a month. He returned to town only when friends told him that she had taken a new paramour in the person of the Marquis of Alden.
Neither of these two had effected him as Miss Bennet and he could not understand this for she was disrespectful and impertinent and seemed not the least bit impressed by his money or position. She as a matter of fact seemed to always be laughing at him and thought him arrogant, cold and vain.
Looking down he saw the Bennet carriage arrive and quickly left his post hoping that she had not seen him there.
Walking across the back of the ballroom he had seen her smiling at someone and a young officer joined her, what they said he did not know but they both turned their attention to him and he walked away.
When the music started she was led to the floor by the most ridiculous looking man he had ever seen, he seemed to be a clergyman of some sort and proved to be as clumsy a dancer as he had ever seen, when he ran headlong into one of the ladies Darcy could not help but smile, which brought and angry look from Miss Bennet.
When the dance was over he saw her talking to Miss Lucas and strode over to ask her for the next set, she had seemed confused and upset but accepted .
The dance had proven to be a disaster as they had sparred with each other through the entire set. George Wickham had been again a source of pain for him for she seemed to think she had to defend him against Darcy and the knowledge that she found him pleasing had cast a pall on the party for him.
The Bennet family except for Jane and Elizabeth had proven to be appallingly gauche, Mrs. Bennet loudly telling all that Jane would soon be engaged to Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth to the ghastly little toad of a clergyman, and this would put the rest of the girls in the path of other rich men.
He had vowed that when Bingley went to town the next week they would all go together and do all that he and the two sisters could do to thwart Mrs. Bennet's plans and separate Charles and Jane forever and he could not bear to stay around to see Elizabeth betrothed to that toad.
When leaving Netherfield for town they had encountered Miss Kitty and Miss Lydia Bennet giggling as they walked. Mr. Bingley had greeted them warmly and asked what was so funny, to which they replied that Mr. Collins had asked for Lizzie's hand but she would not have him, their mother was in hysterics and Mr. Collins was not much better. Mama says that Elizabeth will wind up and old maid if she keeps refusing the offers that come her way, and Elizabeth declaring that she would prefer that to marrying a man she cannot love and respect.
"Can you imagine that" said Miss Bingley "Miss Bennet had better bring her sights down or she will wind up a governess to someone else's brats."
She is too fine a woman to be a governess, she would be a wonderful wife and mother were his thought but he of course could not express them aloud, but some how the day seemed brighter to Darcy.
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