Posted on: 2015-09-23
Fitzwilliam Darcy looked up from the desk in his rooms at Rosings Park to take in a view of the grounds. His letters of business had taken longer than he had expected, undoubtedly due to the distraction of his mind. He had finally decided that he would offer his hand to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and wanted all other matters resolved before he approached her so that there could be nothing to distract him after she had accepted him.
Setting off for a walk about the grounds, he was disappointed to realize how much later he was setting out than had been his wont when attempting to intercept Miss Elizabeth on her walk. He hoped that she had not already returned to the parsonage as it would be much easier to engage in a private conversation in the grove.
As Darcy approached the woods he was surprised by the appearance of his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. Richard had happened upon Miss Elizabeth while he was taking a tour of the Park, as he did every year. When she developed a headache, and he returned her to the parsonage, he had initially planned on returning to Rosings Park via the drive. At the last minute, Richard decided to walk back through the grounds, completing the tour he had begun before encountering Miss Elizabeth. When he saw Darcy, he was pleased at his change of plans, for it gave him an opportunity to tease his cousin.
"I am sorry, old man," the Colonel stated, "but you have missed your opportunity to converse with the sweet Miss Elizabeth today."
Darcy had no intention of falling into the trap that his cousin laid out for him by admitting to any expectation of meeting with Miss Elizabeth.
"I have no idea as to your meaning," Darcy replied. "I am simply enjoying a tour of the Park."
"Yes," the Colonel replied, "except that I have watched your enjoy a tour of the Park on many more occasions on this visit than any other in the past. This morning, your motivation became clear when I happened upon Miss Elizabeth enjoying a stroll through the grove as well."
"I assure you, it was simply coincidence," Darcy replied, trying to keep his countenance neutral. It would not be proper for Richard to know of his intentions before he approached his intended. Though, he did turn back with him toward Rosings, knowing that his expectations for the morning had been foiled.
"Come, we are leaving in a few days," Richard said. "You can admit that you would like to bask in her liveliness as much as possible before we return to town, where it is likely we will never see her again." Something in Darcy's face betrayed to his cousin that he was pained by the idea of never encountering Miss Elizabeth again. "Have you finally formed an attachment, then, old boy?" he said as a jest. He had long since discovered the interrogation tactic of presenting ridiculous ideas, knowing that having his cousin correct his assumptions was the quickest way to gain information.
Richard was astonished by his cousin's reaction. Although he was anticipating a denial of his allegation concerning an attachment, instead Darcy colored, his step faltering slightly.
"It's true then," Richard said. "Were you planning on making an offer to her this morning?" Richard was again expecting a denial, but was rewarded with Darcy stopping in his tracks.
"How could you possibly know that?" Darcy asked. "I only resolved on it last night."
"And that is why I am a Colonel in His Majesty's Army," Richard replied. "Now, if you were setting out to propose, you must have planned what you were going to say to the dear lady. Perhaps you should run it by me so that I can give you some pointers."
Although Richard had no reason to anticipate that his cousin would take him up on his offer, he could not resist teasing Darcy when he had the opportunity, as it was such a rare occurrence. They had resumed their walk and were now within the rose garden close to the house. When Richard told Darcy that if he would relate his plans for the proposal it would give them an excuse to stay out of doors for a while longer, he was surprised when Darcy acquiesced.
"Now, you must address me just as you plan on addressing Miss Elizabeth," the Colonel stated, while taking his position on a bench in the rose garden.
"Do not be ridiculous, Richard," Darcy replied. "I feel silly enough as it is letting you listen to my proposal before I talk to Miss Elizabeth. Do not push further or I will not continue."
"Very well. Just pretend I am not even here."
After taking a deep breath, closing his eyes, opening them again to look at Richard, then looking away again, Darcy finally started speaking.
"In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
"Not a bad start," Richard interjected. "You may want to skip the part where you tell her you have struggled against admiring her, but the use of the word 'ardently' is very well placed."
"You said you wanted to hear my proposal," Darcy replied. "Are you going to allow me to finish?" Darcy replied.
"Very well," Richard replied with a smile and a cough to cover his laugh. "Please continue."
Eventually, Darcy did continue and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed; and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority--of its being a degradation--of the family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
When Darcy had finished, he was startled when Richard suddenly burst out laughing.
"Come now man," Richard exclaimed, still laughing. "You cannot seriously be considering proposing in such a manner."
"Of what are you referring to?" Darcy asked, confusion evident on his face. "I have merely explained why it has taken me so long to show her any preference."
"Ladies do not want to be degraded by their prospective marriage partner," Richard explained. "They want to be wooed. When receiving a proposal, they want to be told about their amazing qualities and how their beauty is beyond compare. They do not want to be told that their family is unsuitable and that you hope your contact with them after you are married is almost nonexistent."
"I did not say anything about denying her access to her family," Darcy said in defense.
"You may not have said it, but it was implied, along with many other things that you do not want to be telling the woman that you love."
Darcy was ready once again to rise in defense of his proposal when both men were surprised by the sudden appearance of their cousin, Anne de Bourg. Unsure if Anne had overheard any part of their conversation, both men fell silent, waiting for her to start the conversation. At first it appeared as if Anne were going to simply pass them by, but after a pause she raised her eyes to briefly meet Darcy's before lowering to the ground once again.
"I was unaware that you held Miss Elizabeth in such high regard," Anne ventured to say very quietly.
"I do care for her very deeply," Darcy replied.
"But," Anne started, then stopped. She opened her mouth a few times, trying to find the words to say. "I mean no offense, cousin, but, do you think she will accept you?"
Both men looked at Anne, stunned. While both immediately began a defense of Darcy's eligibility as a husband, Richard stopped speaking to allow Darcy to be heard.
"I have been pursued by woman all over the country," Darcy replied. "You are well aware of even your own mother's hopes for an engagement between the two of us. Miss Elizabeth has very little dowry, and will bring very little to a marriage. Why would she refuse me?"
"Because she does not love you," Anne replied, then added so quietly it was as if she did not want the words to be heard, "I would venture to say that she does not even like you very much."
Darcy's face showed his confusion once again.
"How can you say such a thing?" Darcy asked. "Have you not seen the way that she speaks with me? Surely there is some attraction there?"
"I believe you have only seen what you have wanted to see," Anne replied, gaining courage. "My mother has long been in the habit of dominating every conversation that she is a part of. As a result, I spend much more time observing others than actually interacting with them. I can tell you that Miss Elizabeth speaks to Richard much the same as she does to Mrs. Collins, as a friend. But, she speaks to you, Fitzwilliam, in a very similar way as to which she speaks to my mother. Considering the way in which my mother has treated Miss Elizabeth, do you think she cherishes tender feelings for my mother as well?"
Darcy had not considered this possibility. He tried to reflect back on their conversations. He had always admired Miss Elizabeth for the way that she handled his aunt. It had never occurred to him that she was handling him in a similar manner.
"So, you are saying that the woman that our dear cousin has fallen madly in love with, does not even like him?" Richard interjected. When Anne confirmed her opinion, Richard could do aught but start laughing again. "I have to confess that this visit to Rosings has been the most diverting that I can remember since we were children."
"Are you sure she does not like me?" Darcy asked again.
"I am afraid that if I were required to describe my perception of Miss Elizabeth's feelings toward you, I would even venture to say that she dislikes you," Anne told them. "The parsonage has been invited for tea this evening. Why do you not take the opportunity to discern her feelings for yourself?"
"An excellent idea," Richard agreed. "We may even be able to entice her to play for us again and you can offer to turn her pages for her. I find that I am quite enjoying the idea of comparing how she will react to you next to her at the pianoforte instead of myself."
When the parsonage party arrived for tea, sans Elizabeth, there was more than one disappointed party.
Lady Catherine was disappointed (annoyed may be a better word) that Miss Elizabeth would have the audacity to deny herself the pleasure of partaking of tea at the illustrious Rosings Park, even if she did have a headache.
Anne was disappointed that she would be unable to observe Miss Elizabeth that evening. Her interactions with her mother always brought a smile to her face (even if it was a well concealed smile so as not to make her mother angry).
Colonel Fitzwilliam was disappointed that he would be denied the opportunity to covertly tease his cousin about his infatuation with Miss Elizabeth in the young lady's presence.
Mr. Darcy was disappointed as he really had hoped that he would be able to prove his cousins wrong, and show that Miss Elizabeth truly did care for him.
Mr. Darcy's disappointment was by far the most lasting. He did not know quite how it happened, but he found himself downing a snifter of brandy before the tea was being served. It did not take long for Richard to realize that Darcy had consumed much more brandy than tea. Making his excuses for him, Richard escorted Darcy up to his room, with the recommendation to rest for a few hours.
Almost as soon as Richard had left the room, Darcy decided that he did not need rest, after all. What he needed was to see Elizabeth Bennet.
Elizabeth Bennet had spent the evening perusing her recent letters from her sister, Jane. As the evening wore on, her dislike for a certain gentleman grew. She was astonished when her ruminations on the gentleman seemed to conjure him before her, though he had been shown in by one of the maids.
Almost immediately after entering the room, Mr. Darcy grasped the back of a chair to steady himself. Although Elizabeth at first was concerned about his wellbeing, it only took a few moments for her to realize that Mr. Darcy was not completely himself. Having never been in such close company with an inebriated gentleman, it took a moment for the shock to wear off before Elizabeth asked him to leave.
"Do you truly dislike me?" Darcy asked, instead of leaving.
"I do not understand why my feelings concerning you would be important at this time," Elizabeth replied. "Now, I really must insist upon your removal from the parsonage."
"So, you do have feelings for me?" Darcy replied with a smile. "Anne insisted that you only tolerated me, in the same way you tolerate Lady Catherine."
"Anne is much more observant than I realized," Elizabeth replied. "Now, leave."
"Wait, so she was right?" Darcy asked, still clutching that back of the chair.
"I still do not understand why it should matter to you," Elizabeth replied. "You have made it very clear you do not approve of me or my family. I daresay my dislike of you is no greater than your dislike of me."
Darcy's face took on a pensive look. He brought his right hand up to rub his face in thought, but as that meant he only had one hand gripping the chair in front of him he quickly lost his balance and fell to the floor. After a few moments of laying on the floor thinking, his face finally brightened.
"I knew that you liked me!" He exclaimed.
"How could you possibly have drawn that conclusion?" Although Elizabeth was very desirous of Mr. Darcy leaving the parsonage, her curiosity was roused.
"I do not dislike you at all."
"So, I must like you because..."
"You do not dislike me more that I dislike you, and I dislike you not at all."
"You are inebriated."
"I am in love."
"I am sure the lady will be thrilled. Perhaps you should leave so you can tell her so."
"I am in love with you."
"No, you are not."
"Yes, I am."
"Stop this nonsense!" Elizabeth finally exclaimed. "You do not love me. If you loved me you would try not to cause pain to me or my family."
"Who hurt you?!" Darcy nearly shouted as he sat up, much too quickly.
"I did not." He slumped back down to the floor.
"Yes, you did."
"Stop this nonsense, once again!" Elizabeth was a bit frustrated. "When you ruined my sister's happiness you caused me pain."
"I didn't ruin her happiness."
"Did you separate her from Mr. Bingley?"
"Then, you ruined her happiness."
"But she was not in love."
"How could you possibly think that?"
"She smiles too much."
"That does not mean she is not in love."
"You are not smiling."
"No, I am not. I think it is well past time that you left the parsonage."
"I love you."
"You need to go."
As Darcy first sat up, then pulled himself to a standing, his face turned a very unattractive shade of green. The feeling in his stomach should have warned him to turn and run, but his judgement was affected by the quantity of alcohol he had consumed. As he opened his mouth to bid farewell to the woman he hoped to be his lady love, he lost the contents of his stomach. Unfortunately, more vomit landed upon Elizabeth than any other object in the room.
They were still staring at each other with horrified expressions on their faces when they heard the sound of the bell. Colonel Fitzwilliam had decided to check on his cousin. Finding him not in his rooms, he had inquired of the servants as to his location. Upon hearing he had set off in the direction of the parsonage, he thought it best to retrieve him as soon as possible. Although he did not know what exactly to expect when he arrived at the parsonage, it did not even enter his mind that the fastidious Fitzwilliam Darcy would have vomited all over the woman he loves.
Without any sort of greeting, Elizabeth looked in his direction, and enquired as to whether or not he would be able to ensure Mr. Darcy found his way back to Rosings Park. Even as Mr. Darcy exclaimed that he could find his own way back, Colonel Fitzwilliam assured her that he would do so. At which point, Elizabeth excused herself, as she was "unfit for company."
They had scarcely entered the lane before Colonel Fitzwilliam laughingly told Mr. Darcy that if Elizabeth did not dislike him before, she most certainly would now.
Little did either of them know that by the time Mr. Darcy came upon Elizabeth touring the park at Pemberley, she would be able to look back at this evening with laughter. And, as we all know, she dearly loves a laugh.