Marriage, Warts and All
Fitzwilliam Darcy wasn't quite sure how it had all started. It was true that he had been much engaged all week with tenant affairs and that Elizabeth was growing restless in her weeks of confinement, but it seemed as though the frayed nerves of each had finally snapped, resulting in an earth-shuddering row. It had begun, he remembered, over something frivolous; the time at which they would have dinner or something of the sort, but now... now, it had progressed into a highly critical and extremely aggressive character attack.
"Why must you always be so engrossed in running the estate? Isn't that why you have a steward, so you wouldn't have to oversee these little things? And yet, you have been gone all day and most of the past week!" Elizabeth raged, storming furiously around the drawing room as she spoke.
"That isn't fair, Elizabeth!" her husband retorted. "You know that I am still responsible for everything on the estate, whether I have a steward or not! It's important for me to be as attentive to these affairs as I can!"
Elizabeth laughed derisively."Have you forgotten, Fitzwilliam, the others things you're expected to be attentive to?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean your wife..."
"I have been attentive to you..."
"I wrote to her only last week! I..."
"But you don't like Lady Catherine!" he reminded her.
"That's not the point, she's still your aunt and you"ve still neglected her!"
Darcy exhaled angrily.
"Elizabeth, you're being unfair!" he told her.
"I"m being unfair?!"
"Yes, you are! You have been short-tempered with me all week, though I can't think what I"ve done to deserve it!"
"I"ve just told you...!"
"No, you"ve just ranted at me and I can't make sense of any of it!"
He knew instantly in his newly-husbanded heart that he had gone to far. He heard his words and the tone in which he had uttered them echo maliciously around the room. Elizabeth stared with her beautiful dark eyes. The fighting flame had suddenly gone from them and left them cold and dead. She did not speak, but turned slowly on her heel and closed the door with a faint click behind her.
Fitzwilliam plunged his face into his hands in a burst of self-disgust. How could he say such things to someone he loved so much, to someone for whom he would give his life? How could they be so spiteful to each other when, even in the midst of a fierce quarrel, they were so completely entwined? Did all couples do this? Was it his fault or hers? He quickly decided that he didn't much care to know the answer to this last question. He would apologise whether he felt he needed to or not. But how could he bear to hurt her like that?
It was best to leave her for a while, he decided. She would surely not wish to see him at the present. He got up, paced the floor, sat back down again... Try as he might, he could not seem to rid his mind of his wife's image as she stood, irate, by the window, her hands crossed in dignified fury over her ever-growing stomach. She really was so beautiful. But now was not the moment for meditating on that. Shaking himself, Darcy wandered slowly to the window. Just as he had guessed, Elizabeth was sitting in her favourite seat under the chestnut trees, its heavy boughs waving gently over her and easing her troubles, as he himself ought to do. He was, without a doubt, one of the proudest people he knew of. He hated to be wrong, detested saying 'sorry" and lived in mortal dread of being gloated at. This, he supposed, was yet another by-product of love. Even despite his pride, he was fully aware of being wrong, he couldn't wait to say sorry and he didn't care if Elizabeth gloated at him for all eternity over it. She wouldn't, of course.
Nonetheless, Darcy's footsteps were slow and pained as he crossed the lawn to where his wife sat, her shoulders rounded in resignation. As he drew near, however, he saw one of the sights he hated most... tears on his Elizabeth's face. His heart seemed to break within him. These were tears which his arrogance had drawn from her.
"Lizzy?" he murmured, his voice curiously weak. She started and, looking up, wiped her eyes hurriedly with her hands. But Darcy took these hands in his own and kissed the remaining tears from her cheeks.
"Don't ever let me be so cruel to you again!" she whispered into his shoulder. "I can't bear it when we fight and I hate myself when I hurt you!"
Such a statement earned her several more kisses.
"On one condition!" Darcy asserted. "That, from now on, when tempers rise, you have to stop and remind me of how much I love you before I start being arrogant and hurtful!"
Another kiss sealed the deal.
"So, you admit that it was, for the most part, your fault?" Elizabeth teased as they strolled back towards the house.
"I think you'd agree that you're as much to blame as I am!" Darcy retorted.
"Now, Fitzwilliam!" his wife broke in warningly. "Remember how much you love me!"
Ah, yes, thought Darcy; there was the Elizabeth he adored.