A Pleasant Evening At Pemberley
Fitzwilliam Darcy stood silently and peacefully, as he watched the carriage drive away. His thoughts at the moment were not of the business he had to immediately attend to, nor did he think of the large party that was expected at Pemberley quite soon. Rather, his mind and his heart were fixed upon the beautiful woman, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who sat in the carriage; who glanced back at him before she disappeared into the woods. "What was the meaning behind that glance?" thought Darcy, as the carriage disappeared. This was certainly not the usual manner in which she regarded him. It was only a few months ago when Miss Bennet declared to him, in such fervent disdain, that he "was the last man [she] could ever marry." Darcy was so shocked and hurt by the power of her refusal, that he was convinced that Miss Bennet would never look upon him with any sort of pleasant regard (if they ever met again). And there she was: after he had assisted her into the carriage, she thanked him in such a pleasing tone of voice. The carriage soon drove away, and this beautiful woman turned back to look at Darcy, unknowingly offering her admirer one last look at her lovely face, as well as giving some relief for his long-suffering soul.
Darcy was in a dream-like state throughout the rest of the evening. He spoke briefly, and dazedly, to his steward, giving him instructions that were to be carried out by the end of the week. Darcy trusted his steward to take care of the rest of the business, as other plans suddenly took priority. He soon found urgency in making the most of Elizabeth Bennet's presence in Derbyshire.
"Miss Bennet MUST visit Pemberley again before she leaves," thought Darcy, "or I'll never be able to demonstrate how my manners, my countenance, my disposition has changed." He cautioned himself, however, in making any drastic plans of renewing his proposal. He had learned back in the Spring, that his pride and arrogance only made him assume a return of affections, which unfortunately, were never felt by Miss Bennet. "No", he thought to himself, "I have only the hope of making her believe that I am not the black-hearted, conceited and selfish man she perceives me to be. Making my good character known to her will be my only task, as I've learned painfully before, that she could never love me."
With that thought, Darcy sat down to an evening supper alone. He could not help but feel, however, that Elizabeth Bennet's stay in Lambton could offer yet another chance for him to win her love. Seeing her emerge from the garden this afternoon was too much of a wonderful dream. He was often engaged in activities of physical exercise or family business so as to drive the thought of this lovely angel away from his mind. And when she appeared so suddenly, so unexpectedly on his estate, he felt as though the angel had fallen from the sky; as though some secret wish, which he dared not whisper in his own dreams, had come true.
"You barely touched your supper, sir" declared Mrs. Reynolds, interrupting Darcy's silent revelry, "you must gain some strength for yourself as you have much to do once your party arrives."
"I am not so hungry this evening, Mrs. Reynolds," said Darcy quickly and politely, recovering from his private thoughts, "but I thank you for your concern. My thoughts have been elsewhere and I've neglected my supper. Come, sit with me as I finish my meal."
Darcy regarded Mrs. Reynolds with an affection that was beyond that of a mere servant. He had known her for so long, that he felt her to be more of an aunt than the Pemberley housekeeper. And how could he not think of her as one of the family? It was she whom he had occasionally run to as a boy, when he fell and scraped a knee. She too, regarded him more as a family member than a master. Mrs. Reynolds felt quite at ease in looking after his well-being; though he was no longer a boy anymore. It was by this unarticulated understanding that both Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Reynolds often talked freely and openly to one another, as this evening soon revealed in the Pemberley dining room.
"I must say, sir," began Mrs. Reynolds as she sat opposite him, "that the young lady and her two companions were so very unexpected in coming to Pemberley this afternoon. I hope you're not displeased with their coming to look at the estate."
"No, no, not at all" said Darcy. "I am rather glad you welcomed them in. I know the young woman who came to visit today. I was very glad to see her again for it has been many months since I had seen her last. And-"
"Yes!" Mrs. Reynolds interjected. "The young lady mentioned it as she toured the house! I was surprised to discover that fact sir. And isn't she a handsome young lady sir?"
"Indeed, very handsome. And very accomplished." Darcy smiled as he thought of the music Elizabeth Bennet had played on the pianoforte at Rosings Park. She certainly bewitched him in more ways than one. "And how did she like Pemberley, Mrs. Reynolds?" Darcy inquired.
"She liked it very well indeed, sir. I believe she especially liked the portrait gallery upstairs. She spent nearly half an hour looking at the portraits! And there was one particular portrait she always went back to. The one next to your father's-" said Mrs. Reynolds, as she suddenly stopped herself in midst of realizing whose portrait she was speaking of.
"I see", whispered Darcy, quite in surprise. He set down his fork and took a sip of wine, as he glanced at Mrs. Reynolds, whose blunder had already revealed enough. He thankfully smiled at her, and she back at him, knowing what bit of interesting information had just been exchanged between them.
He soon turned his attention to the meal before him, more eagerly attending to his meal. Mrs. Reynolds, noticing Darcy's sudden lightness of heart over the conversation, boldly added, "And I do believe she even admired the cameos displayed next to the music room. She even admitted that you yourself were a handsome man indeed!"
"I see," said Darcy, thinking about a visit to the Lambton Inn the next morning, "I see!"
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.