The Girl with the Laughing Eyes
Fitzwilliam Darcy looked at himself critically in the mirror before going down to join his friend Bingley and his family to go to Meryton to an Assembly ball. How have I let myself be talked into this, he thought. A ball here among the country bumpkins, it is too much to be endured, but he had (after much cajoling by Charles and his sisters) agreed to go with them.
As he descended the stairs he was greeted by Miss Caroline Bingley saying, "Mr. Darcy, my, how handsome you look. I am sure all the country ladies will be at your feet." She snickered coyly and went on, "Do you think you will find the ladies of Hertfordshire to your liking, Mr. Darcy?" with a sly glance at her sister who giggled in response.
"Yes, Mr. Darcy, perhaps you may even find the next mistress of Pemberley here in the hinterlands," Louisa laughed.
Darcy chose to ignore both remarks, they were not worthy of an answer, he thought. Some times Bingley's sisters could be most trying. How these two could have come from the same parents as Charles, he could not fathom. Where Bingley found all charming and worthy, his sisters found no one so, except for himself. He knew, however, that they both had dreams of his marrying Miss Caroline, (an impossibility, of course) but still they tried.
As they drove up in front of the assembly hall Darcy worst fears seemed to be coming true. The sound of a poorly trained orchestra assailed his ears accompanied by the sounds of loud raucous laughter. He knew that this was going to be a long night indeed. As they entered the hall all sound ceased for a moment and Darcy felt like a freak on display as he felt all eyes upon them.
Sir William Lucas, who offered to take them around and make introductions, greeted them with great enthusiasm.
Charles had espied a beautiful young woman among a group across the room and asked for an introduction, and Sir William was only too happy to oblige.
Darcy could see the reason for Charles's interest, the lady was indeed beautiful, in a golden, serene way. Her hair was of the purest gold and her eyes as blue as the skies, she was indeed as beautiful as Sir William had previously boasted. Standing next to her was another, as dark as the other was fair. Her large dark eyes flashed with fun and she seemed somehow to find his party amusing. Never in his 27 years had he seen such long thick lashes as this young woman had, they framed her eyes bring emphasis to their beauty.
As Sir William introduced them Darcy was appalled at the effrontery of the mother who practically asked Charles to dance with her daughter. Charles, however, was most willing to oblige and immediately as Miss Jane Bennet for the next two dances, to which she agreed.
When the lady inquired of Darcy if he cared to dance he assured her he did not and stalked away in indignation.
The ladies seemed to be most upset by his actions and as Charles joined him he heard Mrs. Bennet decrying his manners and acting as if she had done nothing to incur his wrath. He was further incensed to hear the dark daughter, Elizabeth declare that they need not care for his good opinion and declare him not handsome after all. As he turned to glare at her she gave him an impertinent grin and turning away dismissed him. Darcy was affronted at the thought that this country nobody should dismiss him, one of the most powerful and richest men in England. He stalked around the hall for an hour steaming inside at the idea that this girl should not give him proper respect.
Charles approached him after dancing most of the dances since their arrival and tried to coax him into joining in the gaiety by dancing with Miss Elizabeth Bennet. But Darcy saw only an opportunity to put the young upstart in her place and answered that she was tolerable but not handsome to tempt him and he was not interested in dancing with young women who were rejected by other men.
Watching Miss Bennet out of the corner of his eye he expected to see her either go weeping to her mother or stalk off in anger but she did neither. Instead, a smile crossed her face as she arose and walked past him with that same impertinent smile, and a low chuckle which turned into laughter as she passed him to join some friends across the way.
Darcy watched her go in puzzlement, what kind of woman was she. She turned what was intended to be an insult into a source of laughter.
As she joined her friends and engaged them in conversation he knew at once that she was repeating his statements to them as she raised her head and looked down her nose in an attempt to imitate his actions. When they turned to look at him while laughing with Miss Bennet, he was sure that she was indeed making fun of him. Him, Fitzwilliam Darcy, who the mothers of the ton threw their daughters at and endured his behavior looking for a chance to make such an advantageous marriage for the daughters and see one of them become Mistress of Pemberley. He, who was one of the most sought after men in society, was being mocked by this country miss.
At last the evening was over and they were leaving the hall. Darcy was never more glad to quit a place in his life, he had had a most miserable time and only wanted to get back to Netherfield and his bed, away from Miss Elizabeth Bennet and her laughing eyes.
While they were waiting for their carriage he heard again the sound of her laughter and saw her and her sister, Miss Jane, come down the steps to enter their carriage. Why did he react so to the sound of her laughter, he thought. Other than that he had never heard such a laugh in his life, low and throaty it seemed to bubble up from the depths of her very being, and the sound of it made even he want to join in laughing.
Though he wanted to go to his bed immediately Charles would not have it so and insisted on discussing the night's events and extolling the virtues of Miss Jane Bennet, and to Darcy's surprise the sisters agreed that Miss Jane was a lovely girl. Miss Caroline would not let it drop there though and stated that she had heard that Miss Elizabeth Bennet described as a local beauty and asked his opinion. To which he replied "I would as soon call her Mother a wit," an answer which Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley found most amusing.
Darcy soon left them and went to his bed hoping to find that he could get a good nights sleep and erase the nights event from his mind.
This was proving to be hard to do though, for each time he closed his eyes and fell asleep a pair of laughing eyes and the face of Miss Elizabeth Bennet invaded his dreams. Darcy rose and paced the room, why could he not get rid of her image, even when he went to look out the window he saw her face smiling and laughing in the joy of life that she possessed. He could not understand why this most unsuitable young woman should have taken possession of his mind.
Darcy paced the floor impatiently, they were late already to Sir Williams soiree and still Miss Bingley held them up with her usual lateness. Darcy knew that she liked to make a grand entrance but one of the things he abhorred most was tardiness and Miss Bingley was the worst at it he had ever known. As she swept down the stairs in all her finest Charles admonished her for keeping them waiting. She, , however, ignored him and turned to smile at Mr. Darcy but the smile quickly faded as he turned sharply on his heel and strode out the door to the carriage.
As they entered the room Darcy's eyes roamed the room in search of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and when he spied her talking animatedly to Colonel Forester and his wife he crossed the room to listen to their conversation. Perhaps he could pick up the thread of what they were speaking of and join in the conversation though he always found it extremely difficult to speak with people who he did not know well.
Miss Bennet , however, soon moved across the room to speak to her friend Charlotte Lucas. As he approached them Miss Bennet say to Miss Lucas, "What does Mr. Darcy mean listening to my conversation with Col. Forester?"
"You will have to ask Mr. Darcy that," replied Miss Lucas, "but for now I am going to open the piano and you know what that means."
"Oh, no, please Charlotte, must you?" Miss Bennet said with consternation.
"Lizzie, I have had too many requests to put it off any longer," Charlotte said as she moved to the instrument pulling Miss Bennet along behind her.
Miss Bennet sat at the pianoforte and began to play and sing a beautiful love song from one of Darcy's favorite operas. What a lovely voice she has. Though it is not capital, it is beautiful and her pitch is true. What an enchanting singer thought Darcy in surprise.
After much applause and coaxing, Miss Bennet favored them with a light air while flirting outrageously with Sir William as she sang. Sir William was a sight to see during this performance -- huffing and puffing and grinning from ear to ear.
Though the company begged for more Miss Elizabeth declined and turned the instrument over to her sister, Mary, who unfortunately lacked the talent and the grace of Elizabeth. When she began to attack a concerto her younger sister, Lydia, appeared at the piano requesting a tune that they could dance to and, after screaming across the room to her mother, succeeded in getting her way.
As the dancing progressed Miss Elizabeth passed close by and was stopped by Sir William in an effort to get her to dance with Darcy. But she refused and even though Darcy assured them that he would indeed be honored to dance with her she again declined and excused herself to walk away. As she walked away with Darcy watching her, Miss Bingley appeared at his elbow.
Declaring that she could guess what he was thinking about -- such tedious company -- he replied that she was mistaken and that he was thinking about a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman. Miss Bingley, thinking he was speaking of herself, of course asked him whose eyes he was speaking of and was much put out when he replied that it was Miss Elizabeth's eyes he was speaking of. She ranted on about the mother and the rest of the family until he simply walked away from her.
Later, Darcy again rose from his bed to go to the window, he could not sleep. Miss Bennet's face kept appearing to him again and again, as she said with that little smile that confused him so much, "Mr. Darcy is all politeness." What did she mean by this, he could not understand her, but most of all he could not understand himself. Why did he dwell so much on this most unsuitable young woman, he certainly could not be falling under her spell, that was unthinkable. Perhaps he should go back to town, getting away from here and her presence would soon clear her from his mind. How could this country girl occupy his mind so? Granted she had a regal, elegant bearing when in society and was indeed lovely. Still, she was a nobody, with no fortune and no background that he knew of, yet she fascinated him as no woman in his life had ever done.
Darcy arose early and left the house to go for a long walk. The men had returned to the house yesterday to find that Miss Jane Bennet was upstairs in bed, very ill indeed. It seemed that she had ridden to Netherfield that afternoon for tea with the Bingley sisters and had been caught in the downpour that had fallen that afternoon. Why she had come on horseback instead of in a carriage Darcy did not know, but she had a bad chill and was running a fever.
Bingley was most upset and insisted that she must stay the night and sent a note to her family informing them of the arrangements.
Miss Bingley was most upset at matters as they stood and raved on about the fear that she and her sister might catch colds if they were exposed to the invalid, but Charles would not budge and ignored her repeated protests.
Darcy had at first been surprised at Miss Caroline's ravings. She had professed to be such a friend of Miss Jane and now she seemed only to be concerned about herself and cared not what might happen to the young woman lying in the upstairs bedroom. As he went up to his room he wondered why he had been shocked at Miss Bingley's actions. He had never, in all the time he had known her, seen any sign of caring for anyone but herself and this was only further confirmation of her selfish self-centeredness.
As he walked by a break in the shrubbery, who should he see but Miss Elizabeth Bennet walking through the same break, skirts muddied, eyes glowing, rosy cheeked from her walk.
"Miss Bennet," he had exclaimed in surprise, and she had answered coolly, "Mr. Darcy" and told him that she had come to inquire after her sister. When he asked, "On foot?", her eyes had blazed as she answered, "As you see," in icy tones. With a grin he had volunteered to take her to her sister and followed her as she walked briskly across the lawn to the house. He was enjoying immensely the way her curls swished along the back of her neck as she strode along head held high, and back ramrod stiff in indignation.
Miss Bingley again ran on about Miss Elizabeth's improper behavior and went on to say that she was sure that he would not look with favor at his sister walking three miles through the mud and the dust. She had made a rude reference to Miss Bennet's fine eyes but he had silenced her saying that he found the exercise had made them even more beautiful. He did so enjoy the look of consternation that passed over her face and thought that she might at last give up her abuse of the Bennets, but alas she went on telling Louisa that the uncle Miss Jane had told them about was in trade. She stopped short when he turned to look at her with raised brows, reminding her that her own father had been in trade.
Mrs. Hurst, however, went on declaring that perhaps they should go to visit when they returned to town, which sent the sisters into a fit of laughter. They were interrupted by Miss Bennet, who came to tell them that her sister was worse.
Charles immediately sent for the apothecary and insisted that he must send to Longbourn for clothes for her so that she could stay until her sister was better. Darcy did not know how he felt about having Miss Bennet about for a few days. On the one hand, he would enjoy her company and her lively conversation; but on the other hand, how was he to rid his mind of her presence if she was there with them for some few days? He was relieved when she did not come down for dinner the first night and soon left the drawing room to escape Miss Bingley's rantings. When Miss Bingley asked in an agitated matter why he was retiring so early he used the excuse that he wanted to write to his sister and needed to finish some correspondence with his attorney.
As he passed down the hall he heard Elizabeth ministering to her sister and found it pleasing that she should show such loving attention to her. He hoped that, if or when he married, he would find a wife as caring as she was.
Wife, he thought, why should I be thinking of a wife at the same time I was thinking of Miss Bennet? Darcy, don't be a fool, he thought, thinking of Miss Bennet as a caring person does not mean that I am interested in her as a wife, and he chuckled to himself as he went into his room.
The next four days proved to be disastrous. He and Miss Bennet seemed only to argue and she seemed to enjoy tweaking him. She bested him at cards and chess and usually in the arguments. He decided that he must not play any more chess with the young lady for Miss Bennet had a fine figure and when she leaned over the board to study her strategy it became most disconcerting and made a man forget his own game plan. The last night that she was there they had a battle royal. She had accused him of pride and vanity and he was not unhappy to see her quit the room. He had left it himself soon after to escape Miss Bingley's abuse of the lady.
Two days later, while riding through the wood with his dog running with him, he was surprised when Sampson took off running at a great pace. His master followed after him. When he heard the sound of laughter he dismounted and walked toward the sound. He was much surprised to see Miss Elizabeth wading barefoot with her skirt held up displaying a shapely ankle, in the small stream that flowed through the property. Sampson splashed through the water to her showering her thoroughly, but to Darcy's delight and surprise she laughed with joy instead of becoming angry, and stepping to the shore proceeded to play with the dog for some minutes. Darcy was in a dilemma, if he walked to the stream she might be embarrassed at his seeing her in such a state. He would like very much to speak to her though but decided against it and walked back to his horse and returned to Netherfield.
He left the Bingley's early again using the same excuse of writing letters. However, he could not make his restless mind cease it's wandering long enough to write even a short note and at last gave up trying. Where ever he looked he saw a lovely young woman with laughing eyes, curls escaping their restraints to dance around her beautiful face as she cavorted through the water with Sampson.
Lucky dog, he thought. If only he could have joined her with the same sense of fun as his dog. He, however, could not bring himself to do it. He had been taught never to forget that he was a Darcy and never to forget his dignity. He awoke to walk the floor trying to decide what he must do. He knew that if he stayed here he was in danger of losing his heart to this most unsuitable young woman but her could not seem to make himself leave.
Mr Darcy made his final preparations for the departure from Netherfield and waited impatiently for the Hursts' and Miss Bingley to be ready to depart. Fortunately for them, a letter from Charles' attorney had arrived the day before the ball urging him to return to London with all haste to settle important business. Bingley had put it aside when it arrived on the day of the ball, saying that nothing was more important at that time than making sure that all would go well that night.
All had not gone well in Darcy's opinion. Indeed, it had been a disaster. He had hoped to become closer to Miss Elizabeth by asking her to dance. That had proven to be a great mistake. They had argued hotly during the first set, especially after she accused him of doing Wickham great wrong.
Wickham, his bane. Would the man never cease to be a source of grief to him? He knew not what sort of falsehood he had told Miss Bennet but she evidently put great store in whatever it was and felt compassion for the scoundrel. He had been so shocked at her attack that he became defensive and only added to acceptance of Wickham's assertions whatever they were. How could he tell her the truth about the man there in the middle of a ball with such a great crowd of people around. People who he knew felt as she did. They had danced the second set in silence though he had enjoyed it immensely as she danced with sweet smile on her face and he knew that she truly loved the dance and the music.
He had been diverted, though, by Sir William Lucas' gleeful statement about the happy event that was expected to come about between Miss Jane Bennet and his friend Bingley. He had watched with dismay as Charles paid court to Miss Bennet. But though she seemed happy with his attentions Darcy could detect no special regard.
Mrs. Bennet further proclaimed their expectations by declaring that the odious clergyman Mr. Collins had taken an interest in Jane but had been told that a proposal was soon expected from Mr. Bingley. He had then shifted his attentions to Miss Elizabeth and an engagement was soon to be announced between the two of them also.
He silently cursed himself for being so caught up in his feelings for Elizabeth Bennet that he had failed to see that Charles was falling in love again. He had seen it happen so many times before -- Bingley falling in and out of love. The sisters, too, were shocked and came to him for help at once even before the ball was over.
To add insult to injury, the three youngest Bennet sisters lost all sense of propriety and were either screeching at the pianoforte or running like wild animals through the hall chased by soldiers. It was the worst family he had ever had the misfortune to meet, and he could not wait to get Bingley away from there.
The next day, with the aid of the Bingley sisters, he had convinced Bingley that they must all go to London. He knew that when they got there that he could convince Charles of Miss Bennet's indifference.
He knew that he too must get away as soon as possible. The thought of Elizabeth being married to such a person as Mr. Collins was unthinkable and left him feeling nauseated. The only way he would ever rid himself of her was to flee.
When the sisters seemed to be taking longer even than usual, he informed Charles that he was going for a last ride and rode off to clear his head.
As he spurred his horse on, he heard the sound of someone singing and pulled up short to walk toward the sound. As he mounted the hill, he saw Elizabeth below. She was dancing across the meadow, bonnet in hand, hair flying, singing, her arms outstretched as she spun along.
He cursed her mother roundly as he watched her, his heart in his throat. She was too happy to have received and accepted a proposal from Collins, for he knew from her demeanor at the ball that she was as revolted by the man as Darcy was. What a waste, he thought, this lovely free-spirited, intelligent woman to be tied to such an odious creature.
Walking back to his horse he felt such a sense of loss that -- had he not been Fitzwilliam Darcy -- he thought he might have wept.
When he arrived back at Netherfield, he found the sisters ready at last and waiting in the carriage. Miss Bingley smiled brightly at him and assured him that no wait for him was too long.
"Lord help me," he thought, the best thing about going back to town was not being saddled with her presence at all times. As a matter of fact, when the business with Charles was done, he would go to Pemberley where he could find peace and quiet.
As they passed close to Meryton, they saw the two youngest Bennets walking toward town laughing almost hysterically.
Charles greeted them with his usual happy smile and inquired as to what was so funny.
"You will never guess," giggled the youngest.
"Indeed, you could not," joined Miss Catherine, "Mr. Collins has asked for Elizabeth's hand and she will not have him."
"Mama is in hysterics and declares that if Lizzie will not marry Mr. Collins she will never speak to her again, and father declares that he will never speak to her if she does," chortled Lydia.
"Mr Collins stomps about in high dudgeon and declares that his offer no longer stands. Charlotte Lucas, though, has offered to invite him to their home for a few days while things cool down, and Lizzie has gone for one of her walks to escape Mama's hysterics," they chorused.
That is why she was dancing and singing in the meadow, Darcy thought, what a fool I was to think that she would have accepted such a man as him, where was my mind?
He noticed Caroline Bingley watching him intently to see his reaction to this bit of news and moved to the other side of the carriage to be out of her sight. For he knew that he would be smiling as they rode on, while the pictures of Elizabeth dancing and singing across the meadow would be with him through the journey.
Darcy read his sister's letter with great trepidation. She begged him to return to London from Pemberley soon. She was getting more and more upset by Miss Bingley's attentions, she said.
"It seems as though she is trying to throw Mr. Bingley and I together all the time and pressing me to accompany him to the theater and the ballet as well as on rides around the park. I am more and more uncomfortable with her as her sharp tongue gets tiring. She keeps telling me how much she wishes that she and I could be sisters. What does she mean, brother, does she wish me to marry Charles or is it because of the rumors I have heard that you will soon ask for her hand?"
Damn, that woman, he thought, what is she up to? Does she expect Georgiana to fall in love with Charles to accommodate her dreams of access to Pemberley? How did a rumor get started that I was the least bit interested in Caroline Bingley as a wife? She is the last woman I would ever wish to marry.
Georgianna has not fully recovered from her ordeal with Wickham and is not ready for another attachment. He had asked Charles to look after Georgiana while he was here at Pemberley but he had never dreamed that Miss Caroline would use it as an opening for her own plans.
I might as well go back to town, anyhow, he told himself. He had thought that by immersing himself in the duties at Pemberley he could expel the ghost of Elizabeth Bennet. Instead, he found himself wondering what she would do or think whenever he underwent a task. If she were his wife would she help with the troubles of the farm families or would she shrink from contact with those families? He doubted the latter very much but could picture her going among the women tending to their problems and enjoying the children. Caroline Bingley, however, he could imagine her avoiding all contact with those she considered beneath her. Of that, he was certain.
"My wife, impossible! Darcy, put that out of your mind, Elizabeth Bennet could never be Mistress of Pemberley, society would not accept such a marriage."
Darcy returned to town and took great pains to see that Georgiana was as happy as she deserved, but still the young woman with the beautiful dark eyes haunted him.
He went from party to party, the theater, ballet, his clubs, but he was bored to tears. He could not believe how much he missed the lively conversations that went on in the homes in Hertfordshire. Here it was the same old boring back stabbing and gossip. He found himself comparing the women of his acquaintance to Elizabeth and found them to be greatly lacking and dead bores.
When his cousin, Edward Fitzwilliam, came to town on an extended leave he suggested that they take their yearly visit to their Aunt in Kent. Georgiana begged off, asking to go to Pemberley with Mrs. Annesley while he was gone so that she could avoid contact with Miss Bingley, and he agreed.
Darcy was beginning to be worried about Charles. He seemed to have lost his spirit and Darcy hoped that he was not pining for Miss Bennet. Before, Charles had always bounced back and was infatuated with another girl a few weeks after the last one, but this time he seemed to have lost all interest in the opposite sex. Well, he would see what he could do about it when he came back from Kent. Perhaps a few days at the Darcy hunting lodge in Scotland would lift his spirits and they could get away from the sisters.
The two young men had no more than arrived at Lady DeBourgh's house than the odious clergyman came calling and informed him that Charlotte Lucas was now Mrs. Collins. He further informed them that Miss Elizabeth Bennet was visiting from Longbourn.
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet?" inquired his cousin when they were alone. "Is this the same Miss Bennet that Caroline Bingley speaks so derisively of? The one with the fine eyes? The one who plays and sings so delightfully? The one who is such a skilled chess and card player?"
Darcy turned red, He had not realized that he had spoken so much and so warmly of Elizabeth to his cousin.
Colonel Fitzwilliam was delighted with Miss Bennet and could see after speaking to her for a short time why his usually cool and controlled cousin was taken with her.
After a few days in her company and having heard her play and sing and much enjoying his conversations with her he found himself falling under her spell and was quite amused at his cousins actions. It was obvious to the Colonel that Darcy was very much in love but he could not tell about the ladies feelings. Though she seemed to enjoy sparring with Darcy, she showed no great feeling for him.
One morning he had met up with Miss Bennet on her morning walk and their conversation turned to Mr. Bingley. She agreed that Darcy seemed to take great care of Charles but she seemed to take offense when he told her that Darcy had recently prevented his friend from making a disastrous marriage. She soon pleaded a headache and returned to the parsonage.
When she did not come to Rosings with the Collins' because of her headache, Darcy stood up and sat down several times in great agitation and soon disappeared saying that he needed a walk. Barely an hour later he returned and fled up the stairs asking Fitzwilliam to make his apologies to their aunt.
Darcy paced about the room with pictures of Elizabeth flashing through his mind. He had proposed to her and been refused. This little country nobody had refused him, Fitzwilliam Darcy. He had gone to the parsonage thinking that she would be only too happy to accept his hand but she had instead accused him of ungentleman like behavior, and informed him that, even if he had not asked for her hand in such an insulting manner, she could not marry the man who had been instrumental in causing heartbreak to her most beloved sister. She had reiterated her accusations about his treatment of George Wickham. This was a blow that was too great to bear but at least he could defend himself on these charges. She had further told him she found him arrogant and conceited with a selfish disdain for the feelings of other. She said she had not known him a month before she knew he was the last man she would ever wish to marry.
After pacing the room for several minutes he sat down and composed a letter to her detailing his association with Wickham and the financial details of their dealings. He had even told her of Wickham's attempted elopement with Georgiana. He knew that she was the one woman who would keep his family secret. He finished the letter telling her of his reasons for coming between Charles and her sister.
The next morning he delivered the letter to her and returned to Rosings to tell his cousin he wished to go back to town as soon as possible.
Darcy sat far into the corner of the carriage staring out the window. The pain in his chest was so intense he could hardly breath. Heartbreak, what an apt name for it. He felt as though something had shattered inside his chest and the tiny fragments were all flying through his heart. Could this what Bingley had felt, and Jane, dear sweet Jane had she felt the same pain that he was feeling now? Elizabeth's words kept coming back to haunt him. "Had you acted in a more gentleman like manner," what a great blow these words were to him. He, who had always prided himself on being a proper English gentleman.
Pride, pride, pride that was what she abhorred more than anything about him.
"Your vanity, your conceit, and a selfish disdain for the feeling of others. I had not know you a month before I knew that you were the last man I would ever be induced to marry," she had said.
How could he have been so wrong as to think she was expecting his offer? Vanity, perhaps, could she be right in that? Was he so accustomed to women courting favor with him that he thought any woman would be elated at an offer from him? Well, Miss Bennet was not elated, as a matter of fact, she was insulted.
Fitzwilliam was beginning to worry about his cousin. He was usually talking and joking whenever they left Rosings, happy to be leaving Aunt Catherine and her endless talk and advice.
Today, though, he was silent and morose. He sat there in the corner not even looking at Fitzwilliam, just staring out the window.
Something had happened the evening before they left that had sent his cousin's spirits crashing to the ground. If Darcy would only talk to him and tell him what it was. He was sure that Darcy had gone to the parsonage to see Miss Bennet when she did not appear with the Collins'.
He had seen how they constantly sparred with each other during the entire time they were together, but Darcy always seemed to enjoy it.
He knew that his cousin had a temper and he suspected that Miss Elizabeth could match him in that department.
Could they have had an argument in which Darcy said things he now regretted? Could she too have said hurtful things to his cousin? Damn it! Darcy, talk to me!" he thought.
Any thing he had said on the entire journey so far had been answered with a grunt from the corner, and Darcy had not even moved his eyes from the window.
"Well, I for one shall be happy to get a little social life going when we get to town," he said," a few weeks with Aunt Catherine can make a man want to go on a long drunk."
Still no answer. "Darcy, are you sure you are well? Never have I seen you so preoccupied and silent," he said.
"I am quite well, Fitzwilliam. I just cannot talk at the present time, please leave me alone."
"Very well cousin, but when we get to town I am going to see that you go to the best parties, maybe a revue or two. Something to pick up your spirits and bring you out of this funk you have sunk into."
"No, no, I am going to Pemberley to spend some time with Georgiana, she is still feeling badly about Wickham. Will I never be rid of that man?" Darcy answered.
"You can be of no help to your sister if you do not come out of your doldrums," his cousin answered. "What is it Darcy, you and I have always been able to talk to each other but you sit over there refusing even to look at me."
"Not now, please, Fitzwilliam. It is just too fresh and painful, forgive me, but I cannot talk to anyone at this time."
Two months later.
Fitzwilliam reread his letter from Georgiana. She and Darcy were still at Pemberley but she was worried sick about him. She wrote that he walked the estate by day and the halls by night, ate too little and drank too much. He spent hours riding when he was not walking. He speaks little and Mrs. Reynolds is getting more and more upset with him, she wrote.
I fear he might be dwelling on what happened with Mr. Wickham. I fear I have displeased him greatly and he is slow to forgive me. Who is Elizabeth? Twice when I woke him from a sleep in his office he called me Elizabeth before he was fully awake. I know of no Elizabeth except the young woman he met when he was in Hertfordshire. I know that he enjoyed her company when he was there but since he came to Pemberley he has not spoken a word about her or any of his friends.
So it is Miss Bennet, Fitzwilliam thought. Could it be that Darcy had proposed and she had refused him? That, of course, was an impossibility. Darcy was the most sought after bachelor in England and certainly no mere country squire's daughter would refuse such an offer.
He had another leave starting the second week of July and he was determined to go to Pemberley and pry the Darcys out of there and get them back to town where they would have some diversions.
When he arrived at Pemberley, Darcy was out visiting some of the farms and he had a chance to talk to both Mrs. Reynolds and Georgiana. It seemed that his cousin's dark mood had not improved and they were both most upset.
He decided to confront Darcy that evening. For two days since his arrival, Darcy had left the table as soon as dinner was finished and retreated to his library.
"What is the matter with you, cousin, can you not see how you are upsetting your sister as well as your staff with you foul mood? What happened with you and Miss Bennet there at the parsonage that night? I know that your mood started then, and it seems not to have softened. Georgiana thinks that you are still angry with her over that Wickham thing and feels that she is a disappointment to you."
"Georgiana feels that I am still upset with her? I have never been upset with her."
"Well, you had better snap out of this mood and do something to reassure her." replied Fitzwilliam. "Come, Darcy, talk to me, keeping this bottled up inside of you has only made everyone around you miserable and it certainly has not helped you."
"Fitzwilliam, am I too prideful? Am I vain and conceited? Please tell me the truth, do I have a selfish disdain for the feelings of others? I must know the truth, what do others think of me."
"Well, Darcy, you do have a way of ignoring those you consider beneath you and sometimes you can be almost rude to them, especially if you are pressed by some predatory mama looking for a rich husband for her daughter. Sometimes I think you are more Lady Catherine's child that Lady Anne's. You treat most people in much the same way as Aunt Catherine."
Darcy snapped his head around to stare at his cousin in disbelief. Could this be true, could his attitude be much like his Aunt Lady DeBourg? Is this what was thought of him?He had always held his aunt in contempt for her excessively prideful ways and now his cousin was telling him that he was like her.
"Dear God, she was right, I am vain and conceited! I never gave a thought to how my actions would effect her loved ones. Is it no wonder she refused me? Yes, Fitzwilliam, I asked Miss Bennet to marry me and she refused in no uncertain terms. I will not go into the details but just let us say that it seems that she was right in all she said to me. I do hope, though, that I have been right in telling her the truth about Wickham. But I had to, I could not let her go on thinking that I had done him such grievous wrong. I have been a fool, Fitzwilliam, the only woman I have ever met who saw the man and not the money or position and I have thrown it all away with my pride and vanity, what do you think of that cousin?"
"The best thing for you to do now is to come back to town with me and try to mend your ways. Perhaps she will hear of the new and improved Darcy and change her mind."
"No Fitzwilliam, I will never see her again but I can go back to town with you and Georgiana and try to make amends for past mistakes. I shall try to practice civility and friendliness," Darcy said with a small smile.
Darcy did just as he had promised his cousin. His friends were surprised with the new and softer Darcy. He felt better about himself and really began to enjoy the company of others. He said to Bingley one night that he had really come to enjoy listening to others, something he had not practiced before and it relieved him of trying to talk when it made him uncomfortable.
Darcy was still worried about Bingley. He still seemed sad most of the time and took no interest in much of anything. Could it be that he really loved Jane Bennet? And what was wrong with her except her family? Well, most of her family. Perhaps he could find a way of getting the together again. Perhaps they should make a trip to Netherfield in the near future.
He invited the Bingleys and a few other friends to Pemberley in August and rode on ahead of them to settle some matters with his steward before the rest of the party arrived. Georgiana was to come with them.
When he arrived home who should he meet but Elizabeth Bennet and her Cheapside relations on the grounds of Pemberley. Anxious to prove to her that he was a different man he had asked her uncle to fish in his stream and offered him lines and tackle. Miss Bennet seemed surprised at his changed demeanor and as the carriage pulled away from the house she turned to look back and smile at him, lifting his spirits greatly.
Two days later, after taking his sister to Lambton to meet Miss Bennet and the Gardiners and inviting them to dine at Pemberley, she was here in his home sitting at the pianoforte singing and bringing his sister out of her shyness just as he had hope. The look that she gave him (as Georgiana played and Elizabeth turned the pages for her) gave him great hope that perhaps she could love him after all.
"Come, children, you have taken up too much of your grandfathers time" he heard his daughter-in-law Rebecca say behind him.
"But Mama, Grandfather has not told us if the beautiful princess married the handsome prince," replied her daughter Lizzie.
Rebecca laughed, "Your grandfather has been telling you a story about himself and your Grandmama."
"Oh, no, Aunt Rebecca that cannot be," cried Jane Anne's daughter Annie, "he said the lady did not like the prince and Grandmama likes Grandfather, don't you, Grandmama?"
"Of course she does! What kind of a ninny are you?" answered her cousin, young Will.
"I know she does, I have seen her kiss him," giggled 3 year old Lizzie, "you do like Grandfather, don't you Grandmother? You love him, don't you?"
"Indeed I do," laughed Elizabeth, as she put her arm through Darcy's saying, "Come, Prince Charming, let us go for a turn."
"With pleasure, my lady," replied the handsome prince and they started off to take their afternoon walk.
They both broke into a hearty laugh as they heard their granddaughter shout, "See, see, she is kissing him now."
© 1998 Copyright held by author