If Music Be the Food of Love
As the first few bars of the music floated through the house, Darcy was snapped from his reverie. Turning from the window, he rapidly made his way to the music room, his irritation every moment increasing.
Thrusting the door open, he observed Caroline Bingley seated at the elegant pianoforte. Instantly, she stopped playing and the coy little simper reserved for him materialized.
It is fortunate that I put on my striped gown this morning, she thought to herself. Aloud, she said, "Ah, Mr. Darcy. You are a great lover of music, are you not? Has my playing enticed you into this room?" She laughed slyly at her own supposed cleverness.
Good God. Barely able to suppress his annoyance, Darcy replied coldly, "It is true that I am a great lover of music, but this particular piece is not one of my favorites, this…pray, what is the title of it?"
"It is the first movement of Mozart's Sonata in A major. K 332, I believe," answered Miss Bingley indignantly. What could he mean? I must remember to tell Louisa and ask her what she thinks. She is very skilled at deciphering that man. Why, just yesterday..., she thought, watching her prey leave the room abruptly.
Of course, mused Darcy, as he walked slowly towards the library. Had not Elizabeth professed a preference for that piece at Rosings? How dare Caroline Bingley play it? His anger dissipated, for the music had reminded him of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the radiantly beautiful woman with the sparkling wit who had completely captivated his fancy. Then again, what did not remind Darcy of her? She was so full of life that she encompassed all for him. With her, he would be complete. However, he did not have her and never would. Doomed to a life without her because of his own mistaken pride. "Elizabeth," he sighed deeply, tasting the loveliness of her name. Determined to immerse himself and his sorrows in a book, Darcy selected the first one his hand touched and opened it at random. His dark eyes quickly devoured the words on the page:
BEATRICE: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signor Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence.
BENEDICK: Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain that I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted; and I would I could find it in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.
BEATRICE: A dear happiness to women!
The book slipped from his hand to the floor, exposing the title page: The Comedy of Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. A trick of fate that I should have chosen this particular volume at this moment, Darcy thought bitterly. A comedy? Nothing like-a tragedy, rather. It might well have been Elizabeth and myself at Netherfield. The icy pain of loneliness intensified, causing him to cry aloud in anguish.
A voice suddenly rang out in the quiet library. "Darcy?" A puzzled blond head poked out from behind a chair.
"Bingley?" Darcy stammered, startled and embarrassed. "I did not realize anyone else was in here."
"I must have fallen asleep while reading."
"Forgive me for awakening you, Bingley."
"No, it is quite all right," Bingley replied, placing his book on a nearby table and standing up. "I must attend to several matters before we leave London. Excuse me, Darcy."
Darcy watched his friend leave and then reclined his head upon the chair, lowering his eyelids. This...infatuation, yes, that is what it is, must stop! You nearly exposed yourself to ridicule in front of Bingley with your foolishness. A line from Much Ado About Nothing echoed in his head and he whispered it aloud. "Then sigh not so, but let them go." Indeed. Forget Elizabeth Bennet…she is no longer yours.
He had a fencing lesson, so he rose and replaced the slender volume on the shelf. Passing by the table, he glanced at the title of the book Bingley had been reading: The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Darcy, at once unhappily understanding, hurried from the room.
The rich melodic sound of the pianoforte began to pervade the room, increasing, if possible, Darcy's perfect contentment. Nearly two weeks later, he was once again at Pemberley with his sister and their friends, listening to a performance given by Elizabeth Bennet, the woman he had endeavored so hard to forget. What a delightful coincidence that she should choose to play this song, he thought, listening dreamily to the opening of "Voi Che Sapete." Does she know I watched her that night at "The Marriage of Figaro"? His mind concentrated on her and her alone as she began to sing.
"What is this sorrow naught can dispel?"
The enchanting image of Elizabeth enveloped in the soft half-light and the sonorous music filled Darcy's heart and mind. Pure joy and love radiated from his being, his sorrow clearly dispelled by the presence of the fair performer. Perhaps Elizabeth sensed his feelings, for a tiny shy smile played about the corners of her mouth as she sang.
Mrs. Gardiner, chancing to glance in Darcy's direction, was surprised at what she had divined in that brief look. Never had she seen a man so enraptured. The tender smile that lit his face coupled with an expression so full of adoration brought sudden tears to her eyes. Remembering Elizabeth's comment that she should be quite happy to spend all her life in Derbyshire made her smile. My dearest, dearest Lizzy. Blinking the tears away, Mrs. Gardiner returned her attention to her niece.
The song ended and everyone applauded, except the nearly comatose Mr. Hurst, who alternated between dozing and searching for something else to consume. Elizabeth, having gently persuaded Georgiana to play, left the instrument and approached the area where Darcy sat. Miss Bingley noticed and accosted Elizabeth before more damage could be done. No one paid much attention to Miss Bingley's snide queries until the name of Wickham was uttered. A sudden tense silence descended upon the pleasant atmosphere. Georgiana, unnerved, stopped playing. Darcy, in alarm, half-rose from his seat. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner exchanged worried looks. Bingley appeared troubled by his younger sister's rudeness. Elizabeth, observing all of these reactions in that uncomfortable thirty-second pause, became equal to the situation. Her quick mind busily clicking away, she unhesitatingly said to Georgiana, "I am so sorry. I am neglecting you! How can you play with no one to turn pages for you?" The pages were swiftly arranged and the Andante Favoriti resumed, as did the tranquillity of the room.
Elizabeth, standing by Georgiana's side in musical and emotional support, slowly lifted those beautiful dark eyes that had been once called fine to meet the equally handsome dark eyes of the gentleman who had described them as such. Had electricity been understood at that period in history, they would have had a name for the sensation running through their bodies at that moment. However, they needed no such term; in that moment, Elizabeth and Darcy simply understood and recognized their feelings. Their eyes, locked and tangled, powerfully communicated everything. Not a word was said or even needed in that eternal moment. In that one look, their lives changed, for they were never to belong entirely to themselves anymore.
Hearts pounding with the magnitude of what had just occurred between them, they were brought back to reality by the conclusion of the music and the subsequent applause for Georgiana. Without a thought in his mind but of Elizabeth, Darcy immediately approached the pianoforte and offered his sister his arm. Gazing lovingly into Elizabeth's blushing face, he offered her his other arm. "Miss Bennet?" She merely smiled by way of reply and slipped her hand about his arm. Happily, Darcy led the party out of the music room.
"I hope to have this pleasure repeated again, Miss Bennet," Darcy quietly said, an unspoken question inherent in his eyes.
"As do I, sir," Elizabeth replied, the answer reflected in her own glowing eyes.
No more was said. It was understood. A knowing, loving look passed between them, a hand was pressed with a significant pressure, and they parted in the courtyard of Pemberley.
He could not sleep; indeed, how could he, with her dear face, so luminous with love, in his mind? Fatigue? Impossible! He was filled with exuberance. He crossed the library to the open window to cool his face in the late summer evening breeze. Oh, Elizabeth! He longed to see her again, to have her in close proximity.
Darcy pulled a book from the shelves as a diversion. He opened it, his eyes brightening at the lines before him:
"If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee
To bind our loves up in a holy band;"
Recognizing the words from Much Ado About Nothing, he smiled. A sign! I know what I must do now. There will be no mistake this time. She was brought here for a reason, just as I picked this book for a reason. It must be tomorrow morning, then; we must not lose a single day of happiness. His impatience for morning rivaled the anticipatory feelings he had as a child on Christmas Eve.
Suddenly restless, Darcy jumped up and left the library, finding himself inexplicably drawn to the music room. His dogs, thinking that perhaps their master wanted to play with them, leaped and danced eagerly about his heels. However, they were disappointed, as their master appeared distracted and seemed not to notice them. They watched as he entered the music room, encircled in the puddle of light from his solitary candle.
Setting the candle down, he leaned on the mantelpiece, thinking of the magic that had happened in the room only a few hours before. The moon, in all of its silver glory, shone softly upon the very spot where Elizabeth had stood. Darcy could almost see her before him, smiling gently, her dark eyes illuminated by love. The strains of "Voi Che Sapete" reverberated in his ears, accompanied by her sweet voice. He remembered the first line from Twelfth Night and he whispered it aloud in the darkened music room, a room to have a special significance for him ever after.
"If music be the food of love, play on!"
Fitzwilliam Darcy, deeply in love with Elizabeth Bennet, laughed delightedly; his mind, heart, and eyes full.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.