The Colonel Waited For Half An Hour
Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam were on their way to Hunsford parsonage. They were to leave for London in one-hour's time, but wanted to say good-bye to the Collins' and their guests. Darcy didn't really feel like visiting the parsonage. It brought back memories of his dreadful proposal the day before, as well as Elizabeth's harsh words. Had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner....the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.... He could not possibly face her now. But she must have read my letter by now, I wonder if it has changed her opinion ..... she must realise that it contains the absolute truth..... I hope she is not too much hurt by my accusations of her family. Good God, what if she is..... she might hate me even more. No, I really can not see her now. He wanted to return to Rosings immediately.
"Colonel Fitzwilliam, I am terribly sorry, but I hope you do not mind if you pay the visit to Hunsford parsonage on your own. I have remembered a sudden business affair that must be attended to. I had better take care of it now."
"Oh, come one Darcy. It would be abominably rude not to say good-bye to Miss Bennet." Darcy went bright red. "Come Darcy, I know how much you like her, do not you want to see her again? You won't get the opportunity for some time."
No, I won't, Darcy thought, I'll probably never see her again. Colonel Fitzwilliam, not sensing Darcy's wretchedness continued, "It will not take long. It is just to say good-bye, and then you can leave." The Colonel sighed. "I suppose the business is not so urgent as to need attending to this very minute. Surely, it can wait another ten minutes."
Darcy didn't have the time to protest. By now they had already reached the parsonage and Mrs. Collins was waving at them at the door. She had been looking out the window to see when Lizzy had returned from her walk, so she had noticed the colonel and Darcy approaching.
"Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, what a pleasant surprise! "
"Mrs. Collins, Darcy and I are leaving for London soon, but we could not leave without saying good-bye to you, your family and your dear friend first." The Colonel replied with tone that made it clear that the visit was purely meant to see the latter.
"You are very kind, sir. But I am afraid that Elizabeth has not yet returned from her walk, but I expect her to be back any minute. But do come in. Would you care for a cup of tea perhaps?"
Darcy felt relieved that he did not have to face Elizabeth. He hoped that after seeing Mr. and Mrs. Collins they would just leave the parsonage, but no... the colonel gladly accepted the offer of a cup of tea and insisted upon waiting for Elizabeth. Darcy did his duty, said good-bye politely and, using the business excuse again, took his leave. Mrs. Collins and the colonel, both a bit surprised at Darcy's sudden departure, continued their conversation.
"I hope Miss Bennet is feeling better now."
"I think she is. Certainly a lot better than when we came upon her yesterday. I think her headache must have been exceedingly bad, for she was crying. It was clear that she was in a very bad spirits indeed. I have known her all my life, but I have never seen her in such a state."
"Maybe she has caught the Darcy disease then. It appears to be contagious." The colonel mocked, "Since yesterday he has been in a state of shock. He has not dined with us either and he was not all well...." He broke of, suddenly realising what his own words revealed.
"Oh my!" Charlotte cried, "Do .. do you think ... I mean.. do you think it is possible that he paid her a visit--he has done it before--and that he...." She gasped "I did notice that he looked at her often. And I often speculated that Mr. Darcy might be.... "
"....in love with her!" the Colonel interrupted. "I have never been truly able to make it out. It is clear that he likes very much, and he certainly admires her. And the way he spoke about her, I have never heard him praise another woman as he praised her. But then, his attitude towards her was--to say the least--rather odd. They seemed to be sparring more than agreeing. He did seem to enjoy it, although he is not used to being approached in such a way. I really do not know, I can not make it out." The colonel paused briefly, then continued "....... But it would certainly explain a lot, would it not?"
"Yes, it would. I have often hinted to Elizabeth that he might be in love with her. But she always laughed it away, saying she was certain that he disliked her as much as she did him. But really, we should not be having this conversation. Perhaps it is all a misunderstanding. It is probably just a coincidence that they are both feeling unwell." Charlotte said, though not really convinced by her own words.
Not very likely the colonel thought. He examined his watch and noticed that it was time to take his leave. It became clear that Elizabeth was not planning on returning anytime soon. This only confirmed his earlier made suspicions. What other reason could she have to stay away so long, than the need to be alone, to sort out her thoughts. Highly comprehensible! .
"Good-bye, Mr. Collins, Mrs. Collins, Miss Lucas. Thank you for the warm welcome and the tea. I sincerely hope we will get another opportunity to meet again later." The colonel got up from his chair and moved towards the door.
"I am sure we shall, Colonel" replied Charlotte.
"And please say good-bye to Miss Bennet for me. I would have wished to see her in person but I am afraid I can not stay any longer. My cousin will be waiting for me." He now headed back towards Rosings. They were to leave in half an hour's time. All his things were already packed, so there was no real need to hurry. But Lady Catherine would certainly want some more time with her nephews. He had only intended to stay at the parsonage for 10 minutes, if only he had had the opportunity to say good-bye to Miss Bennet. But the conversation was worth the wait. Darcy and Miss Bennet, now there's a thought indeed. How come I did not notice sooner?
The colonel mounted the stairs at Rosings in search of his cousin. He opened Darcy's room with the expectation of finding him there, but the room was empty. He was about to leave the room and continue his search when he noticed some papers lying on the writing desk. Darcy, you have forgotten your business papers he thought. He moved to the other end of the room, and, on reaching the desk he noticed that the papers had nothing to do with business matters. They were a bit crumpled and most of the writing was crossed out, but still part of it was legible. It became clear to the colonel that it was a rough copy of something that must have once been a letter. It was dated at 8 o'clock of this morning. He only read the first sentence "Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter,..." Good God! It is written to a woman!! Should that be Miss Bennet? ...... I shouldn't be reading these private letters The colonel dropped the papers and was planning on leaving the room when a quick step was heard mounting the stairs. Soon Darcy entered his room to find a flustered Colonel Fitzwilliam standing near the writing desk.
"Ah, there you are Fitzwilliam! We should be leaving in a minute. What are you doing in my room?"
"I thought I would find you here!" the colonel replied. "But..."
Darcy interrupted him, quickly moving towards the table having noticed that his papers were still lying there. He threw his cousin an angry look! He did not read them, did he? Oh, how I wished I had burned them immediately He had been in such a hurry this morning to be sure not to miss Elizabeth on her walk, that he had forgotten about the rough copies of his letter. He was extremely annoyed at finding his cousin in his room and even more so when realising that he might have read his private letters.
He then took the papers and burned them.
"Now, we can leave!"
The Colonel , having lost all courage to speak, left the room followed by Darcy. Both cousins entered the carriage, and they set off for London.
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