The Leaving of Rosings Park
It's not The Leaving of Rosings Park that grieves me most...
The sound of gravel crunching and a horse neighing accompanied the carriage as it wheeled off from Rosings Park. Near the lodges they perceived the dark and doubled figure of Mr. Collins making his farewell reverence. The lane then passed Hunsford and the passengers were offered the possibility of one last glance at the idyllic, climbing rose-covered parsonage.
"Aahh, we are off to London at last !" Colonel Fitzwilliam heaved a deep sigh of relief and stretched his legs , enjoying the comfort of Darcy's barouche. "I do not think I would have been able to keep up my good manners much longer. I was desperately wishing to contradict some of our dear Aunt's most preposterous statements." He smiled and continued. "I always feel so free when I am leaving Rosings. Don't you agree, Darcy?"
His cousin did not appear to be equally high in spirits as he answered, "Free? Oh yes...maybe."
Fitzwilliam went on. "This visit has been a good deal more pleasant though, thanks to the newly-created Mrs. Collins and her guests." He frowned. "It is a shame that we did not get the opportunity to say good-bye to Miss Bennet, is it not?"
Darcy was leaning back into his corner and muttered something like an assent.
Fitzwilliam needed no further encouragement to proceed. "Now, that's an uncommonly clever and entertaining woman...Did you say she's from Hertfordshire? Are any of her sisters as agreeable?...She was so easy to become acquainted with, no fuss and nonsense required. Perfectly sensible....a woman entirely to my liking, I must say. And from what I gathered you enjoyed her company too. Her wit certainly is a nice challenge ...seemed to buck you up...and like you told me, it was a pleasure to hear her play and sing...though I suppose she is not technically accomplished like Georgiana. Somehow her failings did not matter ... she is so unpretentious and easy in her performance. Yes, her presence at Hunsford was a pleasant surprise."
The colonel was a picture of contentment, looking out at the lovely landscape and humming to himself. He would not have been so well at ease, had he been able to see his cousin's face. Despite the effort made to conceal all feelings, it occasionally revealed signs of an inner torment. But as Fitzwilliam's eyes were busy enjoying the beauties of the countryside, there was nothing to stop the unintentional torture.
"And she is damned good-looking too, eyh Darcy? ... Such lively face ... must be those dark sparkling eyes....to say nothing of her figure...certainly a most attractive woman in every aspect...If only she had been an heiress, I might easily have fallen in love with her... Imagine that silly man to be her cousin. Did you know, he made her an offer - Lady Catherine told me so - and she refused him. Found him to pompous, I guess ... really makes me respect her ... She'd rather be poor, than the wife of some conceited, self-satisfied coxcomb! I believe such women are rare jewels ... she wants to be able to respect her husband, I suppose ... maybe even love him ... I can't imagine a woman like her staying single. And as there's a regiment stationed in the area, some wealthy officer might turn up before long ... the lucky bloke." Suddenly aware of the silence in the other corner, he glanced at his fellow passenger and remarked, "You seem very dull this morning. Are you so sad to be deprived of Rosings? Are you not pleased to be on your way home?"
Darcy pulled himself together and managed to answer the latest question in the affirmative. How was Fitzwilliam to know, that the mere mentioning of Elizabeth Bennet was like a knife stabbed in his breast? And that every single word uttered in praise of her manyfold virtues, was like giving that same knife yet another twist. Consequently, as the colonel was talking, his cousin was repressing groans of torment. At length, Fitzwilliam assumed that Darcy was in no mood for small talk and withdrew to private musings.
Darcy was then able to increase the pain by letting his own thoughts get more persistent. "She is the only woman in the world worth having! And I can't have her...What am I to do? How shall I be able to endure this? I am the last man on earth she would ever marry. She dislikes everything about me..." He could hear her voice. "...your arrogance... your selfish disdain of the feelings of others ..."
Darcy suddenly turned to Fitzwilliam. "I say, Fitzwilliam...do you find me haughty?"
His cousin, who had for some time been contemplating the pleasure of having dinner in peace and without having to put up with Lady Catherine's constant tirades, looked somewhat surprised and answered - "Well, yes, I suppose you must be considered rather proud and ..."
He hesitated, but Darcy insisted - "Be honest, I beg you, I want the truth !"
So, Fitzwilliam added "...and you appear to believe yourself of greater consequence than most people."
Darcy's face coloured a bit and he seemed to be searching for words. " Well, ... I am proud of my family and our ancestors and ... their role in history. Is that wrong ?"
"No, I don't think it is," admitted Fitzwilliam.
"And is it not true that being the owner of Pemberley, I am responsible for the welfare of many people...and that the connections and influence of our family gives us a role of some importance in society ?"
"Very true, but ..."
"But, what?" Darcy was intensely attentive.
"If you must hear my meaning on this, it would be ... possible to go about your everyday life, without always making a point of it."
"A point of it? Do I make a point of it? What do you mean?" Darcy was rather shaken to hear that Fitzwilliam had any negative views on him and still he wanted his opinion, as he valued it very much.
"You are normally displeased with people you meet, you could try to be more open and friendly. Sort of give them a chance, before you decide whether they are worthy of your acquaintance or not. You know there are other values than wealth and connections. And they can be found where you least expect them. You are extremely fastidious, Darcy, finding faults everywhere and seldom bothering to find out if they be significant enough to decide your esteem of a person." Fitzwilliam, was not used to this situation, where Darcy turned to him for such advice, concerning his own person. And he was now afraid, that he might have spoken to boldly, as he had no wish to offend his cousin.
The latter, however, was deep in thoughts and Fitzwilliam was beginning to wonder, what had caused this self-examination, when Darcy put another question. "And do I strike you as a person, who has no consideration for the feelings of others?"
Even more surprised, Fitzwilliam answered, "Not among your nearest family and friends. You are an excellent brother to Georgiana, and she loves you dearly. I have never heard her complain about your way of dealing with her. And I think you bear tolerably well with our Aunt, though she certainly makes you want to tell her off. That's showing respect for her feelings as well as those of Anne's. And like you told me recently, you took great care to protect your friend Bingley from the evils of an imprudent marriage. I guess you were considering his feelings then ..."
Fitzwilliam saw Darcy shrink back at the mentioning of Bingley, and at the same time he himself recollected the words of Miss Bennet: "Why was Mr. Darcy to decide in what manner his friend was to be happy?" This made him add - "And to me you have always been a good friend and someone to rely upon ... although I sometimes feel you wish to make up my mind for me ..."
Darcy fell silent again, and Fitzwilliam was just about to ask him, to what these questions tended, when he had a new one, not less amazing. "What do women think?" The colonel's face must have conveyed his puzzlement, for he got a clarifying addition. "I mean, what do they say about me?"
Fitzwilliam decided that his cousin must be joking and lamented -"They can be very tiresome on that subject, I can tell you from my experience as a younger cousin. They consider you to be handsome. I've heard them admire your eyes, your voice, your hair, your hands and I am sure they are equally laudatory on other parts, though I've not been informed. If you want names..."
Darcy was embarrassed and, slightly blushing, he interrupted this. "No, no you understand perfectly what I mean ... my manners ..."
His cousin was amused at this rare opportunity to tease Darcy and went on. "You are considered an elegant dancer, a clever shot, an excellent swordsman and a skillful horseman. You are no easy competitor for the hearts of the ladies, my dashing cousin!"
A grunting was heard from Darcy, the real cause of which quite escaped Fitzwilliam. There was however something in Darcy's eyes, that made him stop and even regret that he had been amusing himself at his cousin's expense. "Seriously Darcy, I guess you frighten them a bit. Your countenance is rather stern and you rarely smile. Your manners are not easy and you have a critical eye. You're known to be a great reader and so well informed that you demand equal understanding from others. Not many women can cope with that."
Darcy did not answer, but he reflected on the last sentence. "How true...I have found only one who can, and I have begged her to cope with me, but she has no intention to ... Although I told her of the strength of my feelings ... how ardently I love her ...she was not in the least affected, merely said she was sorry to be the cause of pain and that she hoped it would be of short duration! Short duration ... not likely." Thus Darcy was a victim of the same torment once again, and the glimpse of a bitter smile on his face led Fitzwilliam to some new deductions.
He had been wondering whether his cousin's rambling mind was caused by the daily observation of Lady Catherine and a very understandable fear of his own conduct being anywhere near that of his aunt's. The colonel now concluded that this could, in any case, not be the whole truth. And looking back on their weeks in Kent, he found it more and more obvious that something was really bothering his friend. He had rarely seen him so depressed. Fitzwilliam wisely decided, that this was neither the time nor the place to inquire into the matter. When they approached London, he was determined to do his utmost to cheer him up and dared an unusual suggestion.
"I think we do both need to get Rosings out of our system. Let's make this night one of irresponsibility and pleasure. Let's eat and drink and hear music and perhaps find some delightful female company. What do you say to that Darcy?"
And much to his astonishment, no persuasion was necessary. Darcy ran his fingers through his hair, his yearning eyes looked out the carriage window, following a lark that exultantly flung off into the blue, then he took a deep breath and resolutely stretched his entire body. "Why, yes, that's probably what I need. We will be at my house in time for a bath and then - out! An excellent idea, Fitzwilliam, let's go to it man!"
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.