>A Successful Proposal
The beginning of this story is Jane Austen/Andrew Davies. The rest is my own romantic tangent.
"Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, ma'am."
Elizabeth Bennet rose shakily to her feet as the housekeeper, Hill, announced the arrival of Charles Bingley, her sister Jane's fiancÚ, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Elizabeth's own suitor.
Darcy bowed toward Elizabeth, his eyes burning into hers with an expression unlike any other she had seen during the course of their tempestuous one-year acquaintance. Darcy, Elizabeth had learned, spoke more eloquently with his eyes than he did with speech; in fact, he was more likely to be misunderstood when he attempted to express his emotions in the traditional way. In the past, he had gazed at her with disapproval, with barely disguised lust, with wounded pride, with anguish, and, most recently, with heartfelt love. But this new look was one of...determination? Questioning? She trembled under this steadfast gaze, and, indeed, had to look away to maintain her composure.
Bingley suggested that the four of them walk toward Meryton as it was a fine day. It was a gloriously crisp autumn day. Jane and Bingley walked at a brisk pace and were soon ahead of Elizabeth and Darcy, who perhaps on account of the uncertainty of their situation, walked much more slowly. When they were safely out of earshot of the other couple, Elizabeth spoke first.
"Mr. Darcy, I can go no longer without thanking you for your kindness to my sister. Please don't blame my aunt for telling me of it; Lydia betrayed it first, and I couldn't rest until I knew everything. Please let me thank you on behalf of my entire family, as they do not know to whom they are indebted."
Darcy replied, "If you will thank me, let it be for yourself alone. Your family owes me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you."
He paused and gathered all the courage he could muster. He didn't know if he could bear another refusal, but he had lived with this uncertainty too long. He would ask her now and learn to live with her response, whatever it was.
"You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are what they were last April, tell me so at once. My sentiments and wishes are...unchanged. But one word from you will silence me on this subject forever."
He cast his eyes downward, unable to encounter her gaze until he had heard her response.
Elizabeth sensed his apprehension from his posture. She loved him so much, she couldn't bear to have him wait a moment longer for her response.
"Mr. Darcy, I am so ashamed of the feelings I expressed to you last April. My feelings now are....so different. In fact, they are quite the opposite."
Darcy looked at her with a look of delighted bewilderment. Elizabeth Bennet had agreed to become his wife! Nothing he had accomplished in his life thus far could begin to compare to this. He had loved and wanted her so long, and it had seemed impossible that she would ever return his sentiments. So say something, man...
"Lady Catherine told me of her meeting with you. I must say her disclosure had the opposite effect of the one she intended. It taught me to hope, as I had scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before. I knew enough of your disposition to be certain that if you had been absolutely decided against me, you would have acknowledged it openly."
Elizabeth laughed and said, "Yes, you know enough of my frankness to believe me capable of that. Having abused you so abominably to your face, I could have no scruple in abusing you to all your relations."
Darcy would not let her go on. He replied, "What did you say of me that I did not deserve. My behavior to you at the time was unpardonable. I cannot think of it without abhorrence. Your reproof I shall never forget: 'had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.' You cannot know how those words have tortured me."
Elizabeth cringed at his words. When she thought of the pain she had caused him..."I had not the smallest idea of their ever being taken in such a way."
"I can easily believe it," he replied. "You thought me devoid of every proper feeling, I'm sure you did. The turn of your countenance I shall never forget as you said I could not have addressed you in any way that would have induced you to accept me."
Elizabeth shook her head at the unpleasant memory. "Oh please don't repeat what I said!"
Darcy would not let her continue in this vein. "No, I've been a selfish being all my life. As a child, I was given good principles but was left to follow them in pride and conceit. And such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!" He took her hand in his and raised it to his lips.
"These past months, I've endeavoured to make myself worthy of you, Elizabeth. Every thought, every deed was aimed at bringing you back to me. Your face was in my dreams when I slept and in my thoughts every moment of every day. I did nothing without asking myself, 'will this make Elizabeth think better of me?' When I met you at Pemberley last month, it was the answer to every prayer I've uttered since April. I couldn't believe you would even look at me. But you were so lovely, so kind...when you left that day, I couldn't bear to let you go. I knew you belonged with me at Pemberley..."
His voice choked with emotion, and he couldn't continue.
Elizabeth's eyes were filled with tears.
"Mr. Darcy...Fitzwilliam," she said shyly, "when I read your letter, I knew how unjust and cruel were my accusations. When I think of how I championed the cause of Mr. Wickham - in the light of later events..."
"My love, do not blame yourself, how were you to have known? Wickham is a scoundrel who has fooled some far more sophisticated and cynical than you. Tell me, when we met at Pemberley, did you soon think better of me?"
Elizabeth smiled. "I couldn't believe how kind you were to me and my aunt and uncle. In light of what I said to you in April, I felt I deserved no such kindness. I thought you would justifiably hate me."
Darcy shook his head vehemently. "Hate you? I cannot imagine any entity in this world powerful enough to cause me to hate you. I was perhaps angry at first, but I soon turned my anger in a proper direction - at myself."
"And your demeanor that day, " said Elizabeth. "You were so sweet and unsure of yourself. You seemed a different man."
"I was so shocked to see you," he replied. "I couldn't believe my good fortune, and I was determined not to waste that opportunity. When you came to Pemberley to dinner , I knew you belonged there and that I could never be happy without you. I lay in bed after you left cursing my stupidity...if I had been the man I should have been, you would have been lying in bed with me....oh Elizabeth, my darling, forgive me...if I have offended you..."
Elizabeth's cheeks burned, but she spoke boldly, "There is nothing to forgive, Fitzwilliam. That same night I lay in my bed at the inn, thinking exactly the same thoughts...I was tossing and turning....I could think of nothing but being in your arms. I so wanted to be back at Pemberley, with you..."
Elizabeth was shocked at her own audacity. What must he think of her!
Darcy turned towards her, and took her by the shoulders. His heart felt as though it would jump out of his chest. He looked deep into her eyes - those fine eyes that had so bewitched him so many months ago - then at her full lips - then back into her eyes again.
Elizabeth nodded almost imperceptibly. Darcy was overjoyed to know that she needed him as much as he did her. He gently pulled her toward him and slowly, excruciatingly deposited a gentle kiss on each of her eyelids, on her temples, on her chin. He had waited so long for this, he wanted it never to end. He took her into his arms and kissed her lips, first slowly and gently, then with greater and greater urgency . He pulled back, worried that he may have frightened her with his ardour. But she shook her head, demanding with her eyes to be kissed again. Darcy happily obliged.
It was many minutes before they composed themselves sufficiently to speak again.
Walking arm-in-arm back toward Longbourn (neither knowing or much caring what had become of Bingley and Jane!), they spoke of the coming days.
"When shall I speak to your father? " asked Darcy.
"Tomorrow, I suppose," Elizabeth replied dreamily. "I dare say he will be surprised. I have not exactly been outspoken in my praise of you, Fitzwilliam."
"You don't suppose," he answered worriedly "that he will refuse, do you?"
Elizabeth grinned wickedly. "If he does, I shall just have to inform him that my honour has been compromised, and then he will have no choice, will he?"
Darcy laughed. There was time for one quick kiss before they drew within view of Longbourn, and he took full advantage of this
"I dare say my life is going to be a good deal more...diverting," he thought.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.