While She Lay Sleeping
Darcy left Rosings in a most agitated state of mind. Try as he might, he couldn't come to terms with his feelings for Miss Elizabeth Bennet. He couldn't even quantify in his mind exactly what those feelings were. He knew he felt more than a mere physical attraction for her; after all, he had had the acquaintance of many young ladies, some of them more beautiful than Miss Bennet in the usual sense. But her eyes - the way they danced and teased him! Miss Bennet was far more on his mind than he cared to admit to himself.
Could he, the unemotional Fitzwilliam Darcy, truly be in love? He tested this idea in his mind, coolly and rationally. Was this love? This feeling of being out of control when in her presence? Knowing that an alliance with Miss Bennet was most inappropriate, yet being drawn to her irresistibly? He never felt so alive, his nerve endings tingling, as when they engaged in the teasing banter at which she was so proficient. More proficient than he, if truth be told. But oddly enough, he didn't mind being bested by her in their verbal sparring; in fact, he rather enjoyed inciting her.
If he were to propose marriage to her - IF - he would have to make it clear that he had dispassionately and logically considered all the drawbacks to the match. Her inferior connections, the silliness of her mother and younger sisters, her social position - all these would have to be overlooked by him if they married. Surely nothing would go so far toward recommending his suit than his assurances that, despite all these obstacles, his love for her was so overpowering as to render them unimportant. He didn't want her to think that he had foolishly disregarded these considerations.
Darcy continued to walk toward the vicinity of Hunsford Parsonage. He shook his head; try as he did to avoid her favourite haunts in the neighbourhood, his confounded feet always seemed to carry him to those very places.
As he approached a shady grove of maple trees, grateful for the relief they would provide from the warm April sun, he spied the very lady on his mind reclining under a tree. Should he turn on his heel and avoid the meeting - she obviously had not seen him yet - or should he follow the dictates of his heart and engage her in another of their awkward conversations? He sighed, knowing that in reality he had no choice. Of course, he was going to speak to her.
But as he drew nearer, he came to a sudden stop. He leaned forward and narrowed his eyes. Was she - why yes she was - fast asleep.
Darcy couldn't help but smile. What a lovely picture she made! Half sitting, half reclining, her bonnet slightly askew, a book, obviously fallen from her hands, in her lap. Her face was the picture of sweet serenity. Like a Gainsborough portrait come to life before him. She stirred slightly and Darcy felt suddenly uneasy. Was it proper for him to be observing Miss Bennet unbeknownst to her? No matter, he cheerfully told himself, if she awakened suddenly, he could pretend he had just come upon her.
He sat himself down in the grass a short distance away, and resisted the impulse to stretch out next to her. What an improper thought, Darcy! What on earth is coming over you?
Darcy strained to see the title of the book she had been reading. Unfortunately, her hands covered the book and he dared not move her hands to look. Had she been reading of love, perhaps? And if she was dreaming of romance, with that sweetly contented expression on her face, was it of him she dreamed?
What stupidity, Darcy. He really did not believe her to be in love with him, but he knew Elizabeth to be a pragmatist, and certainly she would realize all the advantages a marriage with him would bring, both for her family and herself. She would learn to love him after they were married, he thought. He already loved her passionately, and even if she married him for more practical reasons, he would win her over with the strength of his affections.
His reverie was interrupted by Elizabeth's sigh. She shifted position slightly in her sleep, her head leaning to the side. Her curls spilled out of her straw bonnet, the one with the blue ribbons he loved so well, and Darcy thought how pleasant it would be to awaken each morning to those curls spilling onto his shoulder, to twirl them around his finger as they lay in bed. To watch her eyes open each morning and look at him with affection and longing, to feel her soft hands caressing his face...
Darcy forced himself to end this pleasant daydream. Really, he was getting quite carried away with himself! He rose to leave, fearing she would soon awaken. He began to quietly walk away, when seized by a sudden impulse, he turned back and approached Elizabeth once more. He bent over her reclining figure, touched his fingers to his lips, and gently touched her forehead.
Elizabeth frowned slightly in her sleep and swiped at her forehead, as if a buzzing insect were annoying her. She sighed deeply, shifted position slightly, and began to breathe evenly once again.
As Darcy departed, his mind was made up. He was going to ask Elizabeth Bennet to marry him, and soon. He could not be happy without her as his wife, he thought. Unfortunately, as he was later to discover, his thinking had not yet evolved to the point where he considered what would constitute happiness for her.
But Darcy had no way of knowing this now. That bitter lesson would come later. For now, he thought the only obstacle to gaining Miss Bennet's hand was finding the opportune time to present his proposals to her. He must make some opportunity to see her alone, and as soon as possible.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.