I Shall Endeavor
Note: Please note this a story regarding the second proposal. I shall endeavor to get right. Much of the dialogue is Jane Austen's own.
Darcy awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and eager to begin his day. He quickly dressed and joined Bingley for breakfast.
Neither man spoke much. Finally, Bingley rose from the table. "Darcy, I am off to Longbourn. Would you care to accompany me?"
It was the opening Darcy had been waiting for, "Yes, Bingley, I would." Bingley was not altogether surprised by his friend's acceptance and ordered two horses be made ready for the ride to Longbourn.
The gentlemen arrived early. They were ushered into the drawing room by Hill.
Bingley, who wanted to be alone with Jane, spoke first.
"This is a fine day. Shall we all take a walk?" he proposed.
"I am not in the habit of walking," claimed Mrs. Bennet, somewhat perturbed that the gentlemen did not wish to stay and chat. She would dearly like to boast to Mr. Darcy that his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, herself, had visited Longbourn.
"And I can not spare time, for I must work on the final movement of a Mozart concerto," Mary said.
"I shall not mind going with you, if we walk towards the Lucases, because I wish to call upon Maria," Kitty offered.
The five set off together. Bingley and Jane, however, soon allowed the others to outstrip them. They lagged behind, while Elizabeth, Kitty, and Darcy were to entertain each other. Very little was said between them; Kitty was too much afraid of Darcy to talk; Elizabeth was secretly forming a desperate resolution; and Darcy was doing the same, patiently waiting for the time when Kitty would desert them. Fortunately, the Lucases' was not to far up the road.
Elizabeth went boldly on with Darcy, after Kitty had left them. Now was the moment for her resolution to be executed, and, while her courage was high, she immediately said,
"Mr. Darcy, I am a very selfish creature; and, for the sake of giving relief to my own feelings, care not how much I may be wounding yours. I can no longer help thanking you for your unexampled kindness to my poor sister. Ever since I have known it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how gratefully I feel it. Were it known to the rest of my family, I should not have merely my own gratitude to express."
"I am sorry, exceedingly sorry," replied Darcy, in a tone of surprise and emotion, "that you have ever been informed of what may, in a mistaken light, have given you uneasiness. I did not think Mrs. Gardiner was so little to be trusted."
"You must not blame my aunt. Lydia's thoughtlessness first betrayed that you had been concerned in the matter; and, of course, I could not rest till I knew the particulars. Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of discovering them."
"If you will thank me," he replied, "let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you."
Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, "You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever."
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak, though not very fluently.
"My sentiments have undergone so material a change, since last spring, as to be exactly the opposite of what they were at that time. Please believe that I have longed for your present assurances and receive them with much gratitude and very great pleasure, for I had abandoned hope of ever hearing such sentiments again."
The happiness which this reply produced, Darcy had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do.
"Miss Bennet, please allow me to restate my earlier proposal. I shall endeavor to do it properly this time."
Elizabeth could only nod her head, granting him permission. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen.
"You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. In declaring myself thus, I fully aware that I have been, and am still, unworthy of receiving any return of my feelings." Darcy wished she would raise her eyes, so he could see them.
"I was first taken by the beauty of your remarkably fine eyes, which reflect your thoughts most delightfully. They sparkle with wit or mischief, blaze fiercely when you are angry, and glow with devotion toward those you love. I realized I wanted to see that look in your eyes whenever you thought of me." After this speech, Elizabeth doubted that she would ever be able look at him again.
"But I was a fool. I did not value you as I should have and offered insult as compliment, so that those eyes looked upon me with hate instead of love. Your refusal tore at my heart, but your eyes wounded my soul." Elizabeth was blushing a very becoming shade of pink.
"I have tried, in the past months, to take your words to heart and to improve myself. Even if we had never met again, I know that I am a better man for having known you."
Darcy could no longer stand not being able to see Elizabeth's fine eyes. Gently he placed his finger under her chin and lifted her face to his. Looking deeply into her eyes, he said, "Miss Bennet, I may be a rich man, but my life will be much poorer without you in it. Please consent to be my wife."
Elizabeth could not speak. Tears filled her eyes and her throat, so she nodded her head. Darcy, his eyes never leaving hears, slowly lowered his head until his mouth was upon hers. It was a chaste kiss, almost reverent. A second kiss followed, though this one held a hint of the passion that both had been holding in check for the past months. When at last they parted, neither could speak.
So, by unspoken agreement, they began to walk on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. Elizabeth soon learnt that they were indebted for their present good understanding to the efforts of his aunt.
"Lady Catherine called on me and related her journey to Longbourn and her conversation with you; dwelling emphatically on every expression of yours which peculiarly denoted your perverseness and assurance; she believed that with such she could obtain a promise from me which you had refused to give. But, unluckily for her ladyship, it has had the opposite effect." Darcy stopped and turned to look at Elizabeth.
"It taught me to hope," said he, "as I had scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before. I knew enough of your disposition to be certain that, had you been absolutely, irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly."
Elizabeth colored and laughed as she replied, "Yes, you know enough of my frankness to believe me capable of that. After abusing you so abominably to your face, I could have no scruple in abusing you to all your relations."
"What did you say of me, that I did not deserve? For, though your accusations were ill-founded, formed on mistaken premises, my behavior to you at the time had merited the severest reproof. It was unpardonable. I cannot think of it without abhorrence." His behavior had given Darcy nightmares for many months.
Elizabeth placed her hand upon his arm, a small gesture of comfort, "We will not quarrel for the greater share of blame annexed to that evening," said Elizabeth, softly. "The conduct of neither, if strictly examined, will be irreproachable; but since then, we have both, I hope, improved in civility."
Darcy placed his hand over Elizabeth's. "I cannot be so easily reconciled to myself. The recollection of what I then said, of my conduct, my manners, my expressions during the whole of it, is now, and has been many months, inexpressibly painful to me. Your reproof, so well applied, I shall never forget: "had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner." Those were your words. You know not, you can scarcely conceive, how they have tortured me." He gave Elizabeth a wry little smile, "Though it was some time, I confess, before I was reasonable enough to allow their justice."
Taking her hand and placing it on his arm, they began to walk again. "I was certainly very far from expecting them to make so strong an impression. I had not the smallest idea of their being ever felt in such a way," Elizabeth replied.
"I can easily believe it. You thought me then devoid of every proper feeling, I am sure you did. The turn of your countenance I shall never forget, as you said that I could not have addressed you in any possible way that would induce you to accept me."
Elizabeth blushed and look away, "Oh! do not repeat what I then said. These recollections will not do at all. I assure you that I have long been most heartily ashamed of it."
"You have nothing to be ashamed of," Darcy assured her. With some trepidation he mentioned his letter. "Did it," he said hesitantly, "did it soon make you think better of me? Did you, on reading it, give any credit to its contents?"
She explained what its effect on her had been, "My feelings as I read your letter can scarcely be defined. With amazement did I understand that you believed any apology to be in you power; and I was steadfastly persuaded that you could have no explanation to give. It was with a strong prejudice against every thing you might say, that I first read your letter," Elizabeth was embarrassed to confess.
"Your belief of Jane's insensibility I knew to be false. Your account of the real and the worst objections to the match, made me too angry to perceive any justice in your words." Elizabeth gave Darcy a wry little smile, "And it was some time, I confess, before I was reasonable enough to allow their justice," repeating his own words back to him.
"As to Mr. Wickham, every line proved more clearly that in matters between you and him, you were entirely blameless throughout the whole, which I would have believed to be impossible before reading your letter."
Darcy wanted to offer her some comfort, but Elizabeth spoke before he could do so.
"I tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue Mr. Wickham from your condemnation, Mr. Darcy, but no such recollection came to me. At one time I had almost resolved on applying to Colonel Fitzwilliam, but the idea was checked by the awkwardness of the application, and at length wholly banished by the conviction that your would never have hazarded such a proposal if you had not been well assured of your cousin's corroboration." She looked at Darcy for a moment, and as if reading confirmation of this thought upon his countenance, continued.
"I was absolutely ashamed of myself. I could think of neither you nor Wickham without feeling that I had been blind, partial, prejudiced, and absurd. For I had prided myself on my discernment!" Elizabeth shook her head at her folly.
"Had I been in love," Elizabeth, with these words put to rest some fears that still lingered in the back of Darcy's mind, "I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly."
"I have never perceived you to be in the least bit vain," Darcy interrupted.
"Oh, but I am. So pleased was I with the preference shown to me by Wickham and offended by what I perceived as your neglect, especially on the very beginning of our acquaintance, that I courted prepossession and ignorance, and drove reason away, where either of you were concerned."
"I returned to that part of the letter in which my family were mentioned. Such terms of mortifying, yet merited reproach. The justice of the charge finally struck me too forcibly for denial," Her eyes reflected the wound that his letter had caused, "though the compliment to myself and Jane was not unfelt. It soothed, but it could not console me from the contempt which had been self-attracted by the rest of my family."
"I knew," said he, "that what I wrote must give you pain, but it was necessary. I hope you have destroyed the letter. There was one part especially, the opening of it, which I should dread your having the power of reading again. I can remember some expressions which might justly make you hate me."
"The letter shall certainly be burnt, if you believe it essential to the preservation of my regard; but, though we have both reason to think my opinions not entirely unalterable, they are not, I hope, quite so easily changed as that implies." She wondered if she should mention that she knew the contents of his letter by heart, having read it over and over again.
"When I wrote that letter," replied Darcy, "I believed myself perfectly calm and cool, but I am since convinced that it was written in a dreadful bitterness of spirit."
"The letter, perhaps, began in bitterness, but it did not end so. The adieu is charity itself." Darcy lifter her hand to his lips to kiss it in gentle thanks.
Elizabeth very reluctantly pulled her hand away. "But let us think no more of the letter. The feelings of the person who wrote, and the person who received it, are now so widely different from what they were then, that every unpleasant circumstance attending it ought to be forgotten. You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure."
"I cannot give you credit for any philosophy of the kind. Your retrospections must be so totally void of reproach, that the contentment arising from them is not of philosophy, but, what is much better, of innocence. But with me, it is not so. Painful recollections will intrude which cannot, which ought not, to be repelled. I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own.
Darcy stopped, and taking both of Elizabeth's hand in his, looking into her eyes, spoke, "Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!" He had intended to place a kiss on her hands but her mouth look so inviting that he could not resist the temptation. He gave her a quick kiss, but wanted more.
Taking a deep breath to steady his desire, he continued, "What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you that evening without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased."
"Had you then persuaded yourself that I would accept your proposal?" Elizabeth asked.
"Indeed I had." Darcy frowned, "What will you think of my vanity? I believed you to be wishing, expecting my addresses." Now Darcy could not look at Elizabeth, so he began to walk again.
"My manners must have been in fault, Elizabeth pondered beside him, "but not intentionally, I assure you. I never meant to deceive you, but my spirits can often lead me wrong. How do you think I came to be dancing with Mr. Collins at the Netherfield ball?" This remembrance brought a slight smile to Darcy face. Elizabeth was glad to see it, but could not hide her concern regarding the matter, "How you must have hated me after that evening!"
"Hate you!" a shocked Darcy shook his head, "No, indeed. I was angry at first, but my anger soon began to take a proper direction."
"I am almost afraid of asking what you thought of me, when we met at Pemberley. Did you blame me for coming?" Elizabeth asked curiously.
"No indeed; I had long imagined your presence there, for Pemberley had become curiously empty after I met you. I felt nothing but surprise and delight that you were finally there," Darcy assured Elizabeth.
"Your surprise at seeing me could not be greater than mine in being noticed by you. My conscience told me that I deserved no extraordinary politeness, and I confess that I did not expect to receive more than my due."
Darcy stopped walking, "My object then, was to show you, by every civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past," he cupped Elizabeth face between the palms of his hands, "and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves I can hardly tell," his shy smile caused Elizabeth heart to jump, "but I believe in about half an hour after I had seen you."
"So long, Mr. Darcy? I believe it only took me five minutes. But I had the advantage of seeing you is such fine attire," Elizabeth gave him a saucy smile.
Darcy blushed, and clearing his throat, continued, "Georgiana was delighted to make your acquaintance, and she was greatly disappointment at its sudden interruption," Darcy told her as they began their walk, again. The conversation naturally led to the cause of that interruption.
"When I visited you that day in Lambton, I had been about to propose any manner of activities which would keep me in your company. However, when I saw your distress, I wanted to take you into my arms and comfort you. I wanted to lift the burden of your grief. But I had not the right to do so. Your beautiful eyes filled with tears and I could do nothing to stop them."
Elizabeth resolutely banished the tears that threatened to appear. "I had no idea. You appeared so severe and distant. I was sure I was sunk below reproach and that you could no longer wish to be seen in my company."
"I am sorry to have given such a mistaken impression. I had resolved to follow you from Derbyshire in quest of your sister before I quitted the inn, and my gravity and thoughtfulness arose from no other struggles than what such an expedition as I was about to undertake must comprehend," Darcy assured her, "My regard for you never wavered."
She gave him a wistful smile, "I was sure that I would never see you again. The moment that you walked out that door of the inn, I knew I loved you, and I felt it would all come too naught."
Darcy whispered words of comfort, but Elizabeth shook her head, "It is silly of me to dwell on such matters, especially now. I am much too happy to have such renegade thoughts mar it. I shall thank you once again for coming to Lydia's rescue and we shall dwell on subject no farther. Agreed?"
"Agreed, my dear Elizabeth," Darcy said.
After walking several miles in a leisurely manner, and too busy to know any thing about it, they found at last, on examining their watches, that it was time to be at home.
"What could have become of Mr. Bingley and Jane!" Elizabeth wondered. A discussion of their affairs began.
Darcy told Elizabeth, "I am delighted with their engagement; Bingley gave me the earliest information of it. I received his letter announcing the engagement, not a day after I left Hertfordshire."
"I must ask whether you were surprised?" said Elizabeth.
"Not at all. When I went away, I felt that it would soon happen."
"That is to say, you had given your permission. I guessed as much." And though he exclaimed at the term, she found that it had been pretty much the case.
"On the evening before my going to London," he admitted, "I made a confession to him, which I believe I ought to have made long ago." He shuddered at the memory, it had humbled him to admit he had behaved in such a manner, "I told him of all that had occurred to make my former interference in his affairs absurd and impertinent. His surprise was great. He had never had the slightest suspicion. I told him, moreover, that I believed myself mistaken in supposing, as I had done, that your sister was indifferent to him; and as I could easily perceive that his attachment to her was unabated, I felt no doubt of their happiness together."
Elizabeth could not help smiling at his easy manner of directing his friend.
"Did you speak from your own observation," said she, "when you told him that my sister loved him, or merely from my information last spring?"
"From the former. I had narrowly observed her during the two visits which I had lately made here; and I was convinced of her affection."
"And your assurance of it, I suppose, carried immediate conviction to him." Elizabeth smiled.
"It did. Bingley is most unaffectedly modest. His diffidence had prevented his depending on his own judgment in so anxious a case, but his reliance on mine made every thing easy. I was obliged to confess one thing, which for a time, and not unjustly, offended him. I could not allow myself to conceal that your sister had been in town three months last winter, that I had known it, and purposely kept it from him. He was angry, justifiably so," Darcy stated. "but his anger lasted no longer than he remained in any doubt of your sister's sentiments. He has heartily forgiven me now, and I am greatly relieved, for I should have hated to loose his friendship."
Elizabeth longed to observe that Mr. Bingley had been a most delightful friend; so easily guided that his worth was invaluable; but she checked herself. She remembered that he had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin. In anticipating the happiness of Bingley, which of course was to be inferior only to his own, he continued the conversation till they reached the house. In the hall they parted, but not before they exchanged some final words.
"Tomorrow," Darcy whispered, "I shall call again."
"I would be most upset if you did not, Mr. Darcy." With a smile and a twinkle in her eyes she left him standing, still as statue in the hall, a delighted smiled on his face.
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