That evening Mr. Bennet retired to his study later than usual.
Somehow he couldn't bring himself to enjoy his wife's humorous outbursts. Partly because he had begun to see the impropriety of such displays in public and partly because Mr. Bingley and even Mr. Darcy seemed to be able to put up with them with noticeable ease. He could only assume they simply didn't listen to her anymore, as he himself had been doing for nearly twenty years now.
Event of quite different nature had brought smile to his lips that evening
First time in weeks Lizzy had smiled and seemed at ease, worry covering her face only whilst her mother's outbursts.
He had been afraid to ask Lizzy the reason for her present happiness, as if her good mood was a bubble that would burst if someone dared to touch it. Irrational, yes, but he was truly afraid for her. She had barely smiled when he had read her aloud the letter by Mr. Collins claiming, that she was to be Mr. Darcy's wife
Still, he knew he had to ask her soon, for the sake of his mental state.
He was interrupted from these thoughts by knock on the door.
"Who is it?" he asked, quite perplexed. His family knew better than to disturb him in his study.
"It's Mr. Darcy, sir. May I come in?"
Since he was already standing, Mr. Bennet saw it best to open the door himself.
"Ah, Mr. Darcy," said he "How can I be of service to you?"
Mr. Bennet's tone was formal, since he didn't know Darcy very well.
"Sir, I have come to discuss a matter of great importance with you."
"Well, have seat, then" Mr. Bennet said as he sat behind his desk.
"I would rather prefer to stand." Darcy said nervously.
Darcy had definitely aroused his interest. This man knew how to be shy!
"Sir, I have come to ask for your daughter Elizabeth's hand in marriage." he burst out before the older man had time to say anything.
Mr. Bennet had a sudden feeling of a very hot hand squeezing his heart.
He bravely kept his composure, as he stood up behind his desk and raked a hand through his hair
"I, ahh... well, this was rather... an unexpected turn. Pray, tell me, for how long have you loved her." His last words might have seemed casual, but both men knew they weren't.
"We have been in love for quite some time now." Darcy answered, emphasizing the word "we".
"And how long have you two been engaged!"
"It was only yesterday, when se made me the happiest of men by consenting to be my wife." said Darcy and his face broke into a wide grin.
Mr. Bennet felt like picking up the ink bottle from the desk and throwing it at the young man's face.
The answer to all his questions was now before him, but Mr. Bennet wasn't ready to give up yet.
"So she has consented to be your wife.
Darcy didn't seem to mind at all having to repeat himself. In fact, he seemed to be truly enjoying the words that came out of his mouth, as if telling it to someone made it even more real.
"Indeed she has accepted my proposal."
Mr. Bennet was at loss as to what to do or say next, when sudden inspiration struck him.
"What does Lady Catherine De Bourgh think of all this."
"I'm afraid she's opposed to the match."
"So you're not afraid of her."
"I assure you, she has no say in the matters of my heart, or my wallet for that matter."
Mr. Bennet was pleased to see, that his possible future son-in-law indeed had a spine,and mortified to see, that this escape route had been blocked.
He considered the matter for quite a while in silence, until Darcy started fret and shift his weight from one leg to another.
Mr. Bennet then decided to have mercy on him.
"All right, you have my consent." he he said bending over the table to shake Darcy's hand.
"I do?" Darcy was looking at the offered hand quite stupidly.
Mr. Bennet bit his cheek in order not to laugh.
Finally Darcy became master of himself enough to shake his hand.
"Th-thank you sir."
Now now! You could not have found a better judge of character to be on your side! If you are good enough for my daughter, you are good enough for me. Now off you go!"
With a noticeable bounce in his step, Darcy prepared to leave. Just before he was about to close the door behind him, he heard Mr Bennet say: "Would you please send Lizzy here. I wish to speak to her."
Mr. Darcy happily obliged to that casual sounding request. Little did he know that Lizzy was into hearing of her life.
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