Darcy was thoroughly bored as he sat at the card table, if anyone had told him five months ago that he would miss the merriment and lively conversation of Meryton he would have looked at them as a fool and walked away, but here he was at one of the most elegant homes in London wishing he were back in Hertfordshire and finding the friends that he had known all his life completely boring.
"Mr. Darcy you have outdone us again the game is yours" he heard Miss Bingley say, interrupting his thoughts. "I vow you are the best card player ever, I cannot make a point against you, I think that there is no woman alive who can best you."
"Except Miss Elizabeth Bennet" chimed in her sister Mrs. Hurst. "Miss Bennet bested Mr. Darcy not only at cards but I am told by my brother Charles at chess, is this not true Mr. Darcy."
"Yes it is" agreed Darcy.
"Darcy bested by a woman, and at chess" exclaimed Lady Watson. "Come tell us about this creature."
"There is little to tell" replied Miss Bingley, "come let us get back to our game."
"No, I want to know more about Miss Elizabeth Bennet" said Lady Watson. Tell us is she pretty, is she tall or short is she fair or dark? We must know more of this phenomenon."
"She is of ordinary height, as a matter of fact everything about her is most ordinary. Her teeth are tolerable but ordinary, her complexion has no brilliancy, her mouth is too large and her eyes have a shrewish look, her hair is very dark and of the curly sort that cannot be combed into any acceptable style," replied Miss Bingley. "Now can we return to our card playing."
Darcy did not hear her tirade, as he was gazing into space thinking of another player who did not make silly stupid plays in order to let him win and think her less intelligent than him as a mere woman.
No, Miss Elizabeth Bennet played to win no matter what it was cards, chess, or just a simple argument, of which they had plenty. He saw before him not the face of Caroline Bingley but a pair of lovely dark eyes filled with triumphant laughter as she gleefully said, "Checkmate."
Unknown to Darcy a soft smile was on his lips as he thought of Elizabeth.
Caroline Bingley however took this sweet smile to be for her and thought that it meant that Darcy agreed with all she had to say and was admiring her greatly with love in his eyes.
As Darcy and his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam were preparing to thank their hostess for the evening they overheard the conversation between Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.
"Louisa, did you see how Mr. Darcy look at me with such tenderness, oh I am sure he will ask me at the earliest convenience, soon I shall be Mistress of Pemberley the changes I shall make to add some color to the place. Perhaps I should ask him to drop me off tonight, but the Col. is with him, drat."
"Ask him for dinner Sunday I will see to it that you have time alone with him." said Mrs. Hurst.
"Good, good but what will I wear I must look my best, replied Miss Bingley.
"Fitzwilliam let us make haste." said Darcy and thanking their hostess quickly they departed as fast as they could.
"What ever made her think that I would want her for a wife" asked Darcy of his cousin.
"Darcy you were gazing at her with such a smile on you face after the last hand that everyone thought that her stories of Charles's marriage to Georgiana and yours to her were true" laughed his cousin.
"Charles, and Georgiana, but she is but a child, and she has not fully recovered from that business with Wickham. How could such rumors get started." asked Darcy in confusion.
"Miss Bingley tells them herself, surely you know that she has always coveted Pemberley, I cannot believe you do not know this, everyone there tonight has known it for years, Darcy are you that blind." chuckled Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"It never entered my mind." said Darcy in disbelief.
"Perhaps we should make a trip to Rosings to visit our Aunt. How soon would you be ready to go?" Darcy said thoughtfully.
"It will take me but a day to finish my business and then I can go the day after tomorrow" replied the Col. with a laugh, "Darcy you astound me sometimes."
"I will send word to Aunt Catherine tomorrow at first light and inform Bingley that I will not be able to attend the play with them on Friday night." said Darcy.
"By the way who were you thinking about, who could put such a smile on your face, perhaps this Miss Elizabeth Bennet of whom I have heard so much since your return from the country" asked his cousin.
Darcy did not reply but had the same smile on his face as he saw before him a pair of laughing eyes in the face of the loveliest woman he had ever met
Two days later they were at Rosings where they were greeted warmly by their Aunt Catherine and her parson, the odious Mr. Collins, who informed them that his cousin Miss Elizabeth Bennet was there for a visit with them.
"I should like very much to meet your cousin" said Col. Fitzwilliam." When would it be convenient for us to come."
"As soon as you wish," gushed Mr. Collins, "I go even now to inform my dear Charlotte of your arrival."
"So, at last I get to meet the famous or infamous Miss Bennet," said the Colonel as he and Darcy walked toward the parsonage.
Darcy watched as a look of surprise and then delight crossed his cousin's face as he was introduced to Elizabeth, and watched silently as they soon were engrossed in lively conversation while he was left to the odious Mr. Collins.
Why could he not sit down and engage her in light conversation as his cousin did. Why was he so tongue tied in her presence? He had never enjoyed the ability to indulge in light conversation with anyone but his closest family and friends.
When he at last summoned up the courage to speak to her, she had asked if he had seen her sister Jane who was visiting in London, sending him into a fit of silence again after telling her that he had not had that pleasure. She had then in the course of her talk with his cousin again thrown some of his most regretful word back at him, so that he only wanted to quit the place he felt so miserable.
Col. Fitzwilliam was full of nothing but praise of Miss Bennet all the way back to Rosings Park, her lovely eyes and quick intelligence her voice and wit. "She is certainly not as Miss Bingley described, there is nothing ordinary about Miss Elizabeth Bennet" said The Colonel.
"What do you mean ordinary as described by Miss Bingley, When did she say this" asked Darcy.
"My god Darcy she told us this just after her sister told everyone of how she bested you in cards and chess, which you yourself confirmed at the last party we attended before escaping to Rosings, do you not remember, but then as I recall you were miles away at the time in your mind at least"
"I do not recall such a conversation" replied Darcy " but you are right my mind was elsewhere."
In the next two weeks they were often in the company of the Collins's and Miss Bennet, and Darcy found himself enjoying her company more and more. Though they seemed always to be on the point of arguing, he enjoyed the challenges she put before him immensely. He found himself looking for her on his walks and walking with her, though they had little conversation, and sometimes she seemed almost annoyed at finding him crossing her path.
One afternoon when they were to have tea with Lady DeBourgh, she did not arrive with the Collins's and Mrs. Collins informed them that she was at home with a slight headache.
Darcy summoned up his courage and left immediately to ask Miss Bennet for her hand in marriage, he had to do it now before he lost his nerve , all the way there he practiced what he was to say, sure that she would accept him at once. He must let her know that he loved her enough to ignore the protests that would be sure to come from family and friends.
He could not believe his ears when she refused his proposal and after a disastrous exchange let him know that she did indeed despise him for breaking up her sister and Bingley and breaking her sisters heart, not only that, but she found his treatment of Wickham reprehensible.
Wickham, would the man never be gone from his life, what could he have told her that made her so angry at Darcy.
Hastening back to Rosings he immediately went to his room and wrote her a letter explaining his actions with Bingley and telling her all of his association with Wickham, revealing to her things that he had never told anyone else, incidents that were a source of great pain to him. After delivering the letter to her the next morning he returned and told his cousin he wanted to leave immediately.
On the way back to London his cousin remarked about their hasty retreat from Rosings and soon questioned him about his quietness. Darcy did not answer, he was in such pain that he could hardly breathe, this must be what was meant by a broken heart for indeed the pain in his chest was so great that he could not talk. Could this be why Bingley had been so quiet since their return to London and his convincing him that Jane Bennet cared not for him. Did the two of them feel the same dreadful pain that he was suffering now. Her words kept ringing in his ears "you are the last man in the world I could ever marry."
His cousin was still asking him what was wrong with him why the long face and silence, usually when they left Rosings and their Aunt Catherine's company he talked a great deal in relief of departing from her company but today he was silent and morose, what had happened the day before to put him in such a mood?
"Edward," he said quietly, "do people find me arrogant and conceited, please be truthful with me, I must know."
Surprised at his question his cousin answered that in the company of his family he was most amiable.
"But what of other people, how do they find me," asked Darcy.
"Well, if you really insist on the truth, yes you can be said to have a reputation for arrogance and excessive pride by most" replied Edward.
"I have a great deal to be proud of, My family is an old and honored one and I have one of the most magnificent estates in England," said Darcy.
"A great many of our friends can make the same claim, but they do not dwell on it to excess as you are inclined to do, cousin." was Fitzwilliam's reply.
"Do I show a selfish disdain for the feelings of others, please tell me" said Darcy quietly.
"Well, you do have a way of dismissing people summarily without a thought, you miss friendship with some wonderful people when you do this, but I have never thought it mattered to you, why the self reflection." asked Col. Fitzwilliam.
"She said that I was arrogant and conceited and have a selfish disdain for the feelings of others." replied Darcy thinking of how he had dismissed her and her mother the first night they met. No wonder she felt the way she did, he had not given a thought to how they would feel when he stalked off that night without even a reply to them, but she had found his actions funny instead of being insulted or hurt by them, she had made him the butt of her jokes for the rest of the night making him angry but intrigued.
"Darcy, what happened that last day at Rosings, you disappeared as soon as the Collinses arrived, did you go to see Miss Bennet"
"Not now Fitzwilliam, it is too painful to talk about at the present time," said Darcy and slumped into silence for the rest of the journey.
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