Posted on: 2011-11-16
All through breakfast, a note from Mr. Darcy in the pocket of her dress burned against her thigh. "There is nothing quite like a good walk to begin the morning," Elizabeth said aloud. And without waiting for the response from the others, she stood and was out immediately.
The expanse of Rosings Park lay before her; it would take but a few hours to tour the entire grounds. But she had become so familiar with it now that such a long walk had no attraction for her. She edged along the open grove till she reached a nice sheltered path, almost wild looking for the thickness of trees around it. It was a place no one seemed to value but herself, and where she felt beyond the reach of Lady Catherine's curiosity.
Still, she could not pull the note out to read. She was afraid it would become wet in the patter of rain that had started. At least that is what she told herself. In actuality she was very much afraid of what the letter would say. It had arrived by express and, she knew not how Darcy had managed it, but the butler had slid it discreetly to her before the others had joined her for breakfast. It always paid to be an early riser.
It was in this favorite walk of hers that she had so often been surprised by him. Once, after a particularly dour day with Lady Catherine, she had come here and by the time she reached the end of her walk there he was--Fitzwilliam Darcy on horseback, smiling as if waiting only for her.
Elizabeth quickened her steps, but the rain was coming faster. Though she had been determined to take her walk and to read what Mr. Darcy had sent by the end of it, she was now quickly being drenched. She turned a corner and saw before her the parsonage. She was not desirous for any company. But having little choice, she ran to the house, rang the bell and showed herself in. She had barely any need to however, as Mr. Collins had been watching her approach through his study-room window.
He was already stumbling through long greetings, interspersed with how great an honor it was to have her enter his humble sitting room. Eizabeth paid him no heed, and bid him bring some hot tea and a dry shawl.
Mr. Collins thus cut off from his speech, and given the chance, looked her over. The white morning dress clung and fell around her in muddy wetness. For the first time in all her twenty years of living, Elizabeth felt embarrassed around the clergyman.
But regaining her composure she said imperially, "Mr. Collins, please! Make haste and start the fire or I may catch a cold."
The discomfort of her damp clothes was equal, she mused, to the discomfort of watching this awkward man running about as if the tails of his coat were on fire. She wanted badly to send him away till she was dry, but this was his home and she was a guest in it.
She wondered what to say to him. What would mother say? Suddenly at that thought she had plenty of subjects available. For whatever reason, her mother liked the man.
"Your housekeeper must be kept busy? I don't suppose she wants for help?"
The answer to this was too boring, and though admonishing herself for doing it she again cut his lengthy answer off to ask. "And Hertfordshire? Do you like it more than Kent? You were there not too long ago on business is that not right?"
"Oh madam, no county at all could ever come to be in my esteem if it did not at least resemble Kent, the home of my esteemed patron Lady Catherine DeBourgh and of yo--
"Yes, yes, but tell me of Hertfordshire. How do you like your future living."
He said that Longbourne was quite prominent, though nothing compared to Rosings. What indeed did compare to Rosings? Why even the logs used in the fireplaces are of the finest--"
"And," said Elizabeth trying to redirect him again. "of it's inhabitants? What were your first thoughts of the family at Longbourne?"
Suddenly Elizabeth realized that all her anxiety had been around this very question. Indeed, it was half the reason she had walked so far out--to ask Collins this important question. (The other half was the note burning a hole in her petticoat.)
It had become known to Collins that the Bennets were in some distant way connected to Sir Lewis de Bourgh, through his nephew's cousin's wife. Lady Catherine had been so indignant at the mention of it, that Collins could not bring it up again.
He sputtered and considered and then, with more encouragement from Elizabeth he at last said, "Your esteemed opinion is better... as you know Lady Catherine feels the Bennets are not.... they are beneath her company, surely. And though I did not have much occasion to see her, I believe the eldest Miss. Bennet is quite pretty. She was much admired in the dances at the town's assembly there. I thought it my duty to dance at least twice with her, though a clergyman I thought it the proper compliment to my host that I--"
"And what of Mr. Bennet?"
"You do me much honor by inquiring on such matters. Mr. Bennet does not deserve such kindnesss... Nor, I am sure, do I..."
His nonsense continued for some time till at last she was able to gather that Mr. Bennet largely stayed in the library. When she heard some of that gentleman's remarks to the clergyman, she laughed so heartily that even Collins realized he was being laughed at.
The rain outside ceased a little and Elizabeth stood to leave. "Do not mind Mr. Bennet, sir," she said somewhat applogetically to Collins. "We are all ridiculous in some way or other; only most of us are better at hiding it. I will give your compliments to my mother. But I must be off now."
And so saying she went through the door he opened. Trudging and tripping through new puddles she quickly crossed through the grove, went by the bridge, and entered, breathless, into her home.
Lady Catherine had noticed her absence an hour ago. And now she loomed before her in the lobby. "Elizabeth! What on earth girl were you doing? The mud has discolored your gown. Call a maid at once to clear it! Where is your sense of decorum? Your pride? I insist on knowing where you were. I want to see you in my sitting room at once, after you have changed into more decent clothing."
Elizabeth her face flushed and her eyes wide and bright solemnly curtsied.
"Yes, Mother," she said.
Elizabeth quickly went up the stairs and down a corridor as her mother, Lady Catherine called after her "You will not be going outdoors Elizabeth, till I have seen some improvements in you. You will not be allowed anywhere except church till you behave more like Anne."
Elizabeth hardly heard her. She turned the hall, pushed the heavy door and came into the expanse of her room. Heavy, gaudy red curtains, trimmed in gold, had been pushed aside to reveal the large windows overlooking a pond and a thicket of trees clustering it. The canopy around her bed hung lazily to the floor. The fireplace, nearly half her size, had but a few flames, remnants from the night. On the far side of the room was an opening in the wall with her other furniture--her "dressing room." But to all this splendor that her mother would have wished reminded her of her place, Elizabeth was perfectly oblivious. Now was the moment--mere minutes before her mother's servants came to help her change; and Mrs. Jenkinson pried in to ask if Elizabeth had a cold or whether she preferred the blue muslin or the pink?
She took off her muddy gown, letting it slide past her shoulder, bosom and waist to collect in a muddy circle at her feet. She plucked Darcy's note from the pocket. Elizabeth traipsed across the floor to her bed, losing her slippers along the way, and leaned against the pillar of the bed. With one hand curled around the canopy curtain, her heart raced in equal fear and anticipation as she held the plain white note in her other hand. With a quick flick, she opened it. It had but two lines:
She sighed and slid to the floor and let the canopy cover her bare toes and petticoat. A full month before he would come. He did not say that it was the earliest he could make it. Or how long he would stay.
He did not need to. She knew he had sent her the note as fast as he could, and that he would stay as long as he could. Her eyes lingered over affectionately, the tail on the y pointing down towards Darcy. The noise of the entourage beyond her door increased, with the voice of Lady Catherine in it's midst.
Disappointed as Elizabeth was, she couldn't help but smile slightly at how emphatically Darcy had placed the period after that single word. It was not a notice of his coming, but a promise. He would be here for Easter.
The door opened without a knock and her mother entered. The servants poured in from either side of her. Elizabeth stood as Lady Catherine began her lecture and the servants approached her. She brushed her petticoat down, and in one slick move hid the note out of sight.
Her last thought as she entered the lukewarm bath was not of Darcy, but of the Bennets. They might do just fine, she thought, and at last gave in to Lady Catherine's captivity.
"Elizabeth, I demand an answer! Do you agree or not?"
"Mother," said Elizabeth, "I do."
Posted on: 2013-09-28
Lady Catherine received a more formal and somewhat lengthier letter than Elizabeth's regarding her nephew's expected visit near Easter a few weeks later. She read it aloud to the girls, though primarily to Anne. The elder de Bourgh sister merely coughed in response, though her face expressed some interest. Elizabeth mentioned the weather might be bad for such long travel.
"It is not a long journey Elizabeth" said Lady Catherine without glancing up as she folded the letter. "And your cousin can bear the weather quite well. He has the Fitzwilliam constitution, you know. It is good in a man, but in a lady a delicate constitution like Anne's will do."
Elizabeth sipped her tea and wondered if this was rather a remark on her own sudden health. As a child she had been almost as thin as Anne. But it had been only a few years before she grew rather stout and healthy, perhaps too healthy. She could endure cold and rain without the coughing fits her sister would sink into each winter.
Neither of them were very pretty. The society in Hunsford was so beneath them that both girls were rather awkward in company, taciturn and at times proud. They were exceedingly wealthy however and were thus considered marriageable material -- but if only they might be seen! Though twenty, Elizabeth was still not out. And Anne, though she had been out for more than two years, was still ever content to remain at Rosings. And till her eldest daughter was married, Lady Catherine was pretty determined that Elizabeth should not be out.
The last they had left Kent had been two summers ago, when their uncle Darcy had invited them to his London town home. "It must be my nephews idea," Lady Catherine pronounced, and after much probing, their uncle in a letter indicated that it had been his son's suggestion. No refusal or ailment on Anne's part had been heard after that. Indeed as the invitation had included Elizabeth, she was allowed to accompany Anne, though only because Anne could not bear the thought of going alone.
London was too lively and hot; Anne hated it. God help her the day she became a Darcy, she often thought, but she would not set foot in London without her mother. Pemberley at least was still clean and quiet enough for comfort.
Elizabeth on the other hand, restricted though she was from outings, would come back with a cheerful rosy hue any time Fitzwilliam would humor her with a promenade, a visit to the bookstore, or even a simple game of cards.
Her uncle Darcy's solemn silence was at least more welcome to Anne. When he was not reading he was often watching the de Bourgh sisters with a brooding silence. He provided for every ease that Anne sought in her delicate constitution. Even Darcy and Elizabeth would play and sing anything if Anne would only hint at it. Anne, however, often thought that Mrs. Jenkinson's piano playing would be much more instructive to her ears than Elizabeth and Darcy's lively duets.
There was not any great binding of sisterhood between them. Elizabeth despised Anne's idleness and Anne was frustrated by Elizabeth's constant insistence on change. After returning from her one adventure to London, Anne had settled back into the routine of nothings at Rosings. And Elizabeth had gone anywhere she was allowed: to airings in the carriage, on walks to the parsonage, to the Smiths and other tenants their mother would occasionally deign to concern herself with. And it wasn't simply go and be back, but Elizabeth would nudge and plead. 'Couldn't Anne stop by the Parsonage and tell Mr. Collins to cease glaring at such and such girl during his sermon who was coughing? For the poor thing could not help it if she were sick and Collins would understand better if Anne said it as Anne had been coughing too not so long ago.' And so on and so forth.
The truth was that indoors Elizabeth could only hope and wait for a word from Darcy or for his arrival with nothing to distract her from the waiting.
A de Bourgh did not pine. She reminded herself of this a few days before Darcy's expected Easter arrival when she caught herself glancing out the window frequently. Too disgusted with herself for words, Elizabeth's neck arched like a swan's and her face was suffused with such hauteur that Mrs. Jenkinson became rather afraid. Her companion, who had been reading aloud, asked Elizabeth if she wished to go out instead.
"Why should you ask me such a thing?" was the reply.
"Because you have been looking out the window this past half hour." Mrs Jenkinson closed the book and smiled at her charge kindly. But Elizabeth was inclined to judge her severely and thought it was a knowing smile; and was thus uncharacteristically harsh in her response.
"You read, my dear Mrs. Jenkinson, very slow. And your choice in literature is almost as bad." She stood and walked towards the books that had been fetched for her and rummaged through them. "You may leave if you wish," she said without looking up. "I'm sure Anne wants you about something. I can read better alone."
With more politeness than was deserved, the poor lady took leave.
Almost as soon after, Elizabeth fell on the chair with an aggravated sigh. Lord help her, but she could not beat the dullness of Rosings with a book today. She looked to her right at the books; then unconsciously to her left out the window, out to the grounds, which from this angle descended quickly in a fog of trees to the outer avenue that edged the park.
She came to a sudden resolution and had walked with a fruit basket to the end of the park before anyone had noticed her. She could have called for the curricle to run this errand, but that would have taken too long. And more importantly in walking she felt beyond the officious curiosity of her mother. She walked past the parsonage, hardly acknowledging the clergyman who had coming running out to greet her.
There was an ill old farmer who lived in a cottage a mile past the parsonage. His bones had grown weak and he was not fit to work the fields, yet somehow he and his wife managed to pay their fees. He was largely ignored, except by Elizabeth herself, and she kept it that way.
Her mission was for nought, however, for on arrival it was found that the lady of the cottage was asleep, sick with a cold. A young girl allowed her in long enough to assess the surroundings and put her basket down. The place was so deep in dust that it swept around Elizabeth's fine summer dress and clung to her petticoat.
Elizabeth, attempting to be of use, asked the young girl what was the matter with the place. She could not understand between the sniffling, coughing, and tears; and feeling uncomfortable with such profuse emotions said with an awkward smile, "I suppose I cannot do more for you at the moment. Except perhaps dust, but my dress has done most of that for you."
Her mission for nought, Elizabeth could only leave feeling acutely disappointed at her lack of nursing skills. The sun was flaming red, preparing for sunset when Elizabeth snuck in through the glass doors of the west salon of Rosings. She could hear conversation from the parlor as she slipped through the hall towards the stairs and was half way up the grand staircase when the door opened. A tall gentleman stepped out and, from the bottom of the stairs, looked up at her in amusement.
She started and turned at the sound of the door sealing shut. And her lashes fluttered fast to see his handsome, familiar face--the only betrayal of her pleasure of this unexpected surprise.
"Darcy? But how?"
"By carriage, what else?" said he smiling, climbing the stairs to join her.
But she stopped him hastily, and looked past him, anxious that the others should not hear her.
"You mustn't come near. My clothes--"
"Are four inches deep in mud." He came closer nevertheless. "Where have you been Lizzy?"
"One of our tenants is sick."
"And you could not send a servant? Or a doctor?" He looked with real concern at her. "How long have you--"
"And what of you? Did you just arrive?"
But his consternation was great. "Lizzy, you can't-- really, you do not know the danger--"
"Do not come nearer," she cried for he almost had reached for her filthy hand. "I must dress first--don't let mother know!"
And without another word or look she went.
Darcy, leaning against the bannister, watched her go. It was not the welcome he had been anticipating.
It was a moment before Lady Catherine and Anne entered the hallway and wondered why he was standing about.
"Oh to escort my cousin Anne of course," he said, standing to attention suddenly. He did not notice the pleasant smiles between mother and daughter.
Lady Catherine kept dinner punctual. Even Darcy knew to be timely, and yet her ladyship was curious enough about Elizabeth's earlier absence to have them wait till she had been questioned. Darcy had a moment to be impressed with the indifference with which his little lady received the barrage of hidden accusations from her mother.
"Where have you been Elizabeth that you have not greeted your cousin?" she at last asked pointedly. "Did you find amusement in something more important? It is a hard travel this time of year."
"It is because his arrival is so unexpected," Elizabeth replied pleasantly. "I thought he would be here next week at the earliest. But I am remiss in not having greeted him properly." And she came forward to shake his hand with the familiarity that had existed between them since childhood.
"Is it so difficult to travel for you?" she asked. There was an unconscious touch of softness to her voice that belied to Darcy how hard it had been for her to wait.
"Why? Will you regret wanting me here if I tell you it was?"
She was saved from responding by her mother, who always had a response handy.
"Oh we have all been waiting. Why Anne herself said the other day how far you must travel only to see us..."
Elizabeth turned a deaf ear on the remaining conversation. She knew even by the tone of her mother's voice what was exaggerated and what was added-in; it often made her wonder if Darcy knew, or even really if her mother knew, how often these charming and polite little fibs were scattered through her conversations, particularly when it concerned Anne.
Darcy was urged by all the ladies when he joined them in the parlor after dinner to retire early and rest. But he declared himself quite rested. They shared what little news they had of Rosings. Anne spoke of a dinner party she had been to last week. Lady Catherine spoke of how wonderful and demure everyone had thought her daughter, and then spoke at length of the renovations to the gallery. She would have Darcy observe it in the morning.
At long last, Darcy turned to the unusually quiet lady on his side. "And what about you Lizzy? Haven't you any news to share with me?"
She smiled wryly. "What news can I have? I have little to do and even less to see of the world. I would rather hear what news you bring. How is my uncle?"
The question turned his mood however and he replied with great detail on his father's worsening health. Mr. Darcy, senior, had been ill for some time so it had become almost redundant to inquire after him and hear that he was still ill. Lady Catherine soon tried to shift the conversation, but Lizzy who had detected a certain change in Darcy's voice inquired further, and Darcy told her further of how a certain doctor had suggested a change of weather might suit him.
"Oh then let him come to the sea," said Lady Catherine. "I do say there are few places that can compare for relaxation than Ramsgate and it is just some miles south of here. He may stop here too to see Anne. Perhaps they might go together."
"It would help my ill health, I suppose," agreed Anne.
"Oh no," cried Lizzy. "Not so far as here! It may be better for him to not travel at all in such poor condition. The countryside air can not be so terrible for his health as to risk such a long trip."
The good sense in this suggestion recalled to Darcy her earlier excursion, and he narrowed his eyes. "And since when have you become a nurse Miss Lizzy? This morning?"
There was accusation in his voice, but Elizabeth did not wince to hear him go near the subject she had restricted him from.
"But what does my uncle feel?" She asked instead. "Does he think the sea will do him good?"
"He is inclined to your opinion. He has not the strength to travel even a half day, much less to Kent. I have managed estate matters as far as I can for him and I hope he may rest for a little while but I cannot lengthen my stay at Rosings this time--as happy as I am to see you aunt."
Lady Catherine glowed but said in the possessive manner she was used to speaking to Darcy, "But you must stay some weeks at least. Why come all this way if you are only to rush back? And if your father is so sick, why did you come? No, you shall stay, I say. The inducement to remain at Rosings is too great."
She shared a knowing smile with Anne and Darcy caught his Lizzy turn her head away quickly. Partly to ease her guilt he responded calmly. "My father urged me to come and I am happy to come all this way here to see all of you, if only for a little while."
Anne inquired if they should bring out the cards, but Elizabeth said they should retire early. Darcy agreed with her saying cheerfully that he might be more inclined tomorrow to lose to either one of his cousins.
"Oh then you must just say, "lose to Anne," for you know she is the better player," said Lady Catherine laughingly. "My word, if her health had allowed it she might really be better than our Elizabeth at playing and drawing too. For she does hate to lose... much like you when you were a child."
"What fun we used to have at cards when we were young," said the sickly little lady.
Anne shared what she thought was a significant glance with Darcy, who smiled uncertainly and soon parted with the company.
Sleep escaped Elizabeth that night. Her stomach seemed to turn on it's own. She could think of nothing save Darcy's coming--his coming when his father was so ill. She almost wished him far away, as far as Pemberley. Almost.
Lady Catherine glowed with contentment upon seeing Darcy the next morning. She praised him, said how much better he looked now when he was rested, and how welcome his recently frequent trips to Rosings were. These effusions were almost over by the time Anne, with a shawl wrapped around her tiny shoulders, had come down the grand staircase with Mrs. Jenkinson.
As he heard the unnecessarily detailed response on Anne's cough and what the apothecary had suggested, Darcy's eyes trailed past them up the grand staircase, as if waiting for another figure to appear.
Anne coughed again and told Darcy she was well enough to pull a curricule today.
"Mrs. Jenkinson," said Lady Catherine. "Did you not see Elizabeth before you? Where is she? What can she be doing at this hour? You must excuse her," she said to Darcy. "If only she had been born more obedient like Anne. I have often noted how those who are badly behaved now, have been so since birth.xxx Mrs. Jenkinson, you must bring her here."
As painful as it was for Darcy to hear of Elizabeth talked in such tones, he held his tongue. He found that ignoring such comments about Elizabeth ended them much more quickly than any amount of protest and contradiction did.
It was only half way through breakfast that Elizabeth appeared downstairs with Mrs. Jenkinson flittering about her. Though employed for Elizabeth, she spent more time with Anne, to the satisfaction of both sisters. Today though Elizabeth had lost her rosy hue and it excited her trifling concern.
"Perhaps you have caught a cold?" she asked.
The others similarly turned to observe Elizabeth. Darcy, remembering that Elizabeth had been to visit a sick tenant, stood and walked across to feel the back of her hand with his. Before the others, he dared not feel her face, the rising of that soft pale cheek.
"There is no fever," Darcy reported.
"It is just a headache," she said quietly.
"I have had a cold since last month," said Anne jealously. The comment had the desired effect of turning Mrs. Jenkinson's attentions back towards her. And she commented for the remaining time on how little Anne ate.
Darcy was more worried by Elizabeth's silence than by any other appearance of illness. Still it was more than two hours before he was able to suggest everyone join him for a walk. Anne quickly begged off and it took Lady Catherine only a little convincing to agree to watch his progress through the window instead of joining him.
So the gentleman approached Elizabeth. "Surely you will not abandon me to go about the grounds alone," said he in lowered tones. She smiled tentatively and said aloud that her mother had acquired some figurines for the fountain and if he wished she would show him.
They walked sedately and rather in silence till they had passed the fountains, and went past the open trail and headed for the shade of the trees beyond, out of sight of Rosings.
Darcy turned to watch his companion as she looked about; a few stray, wavy hairs lay limp around her neck under her bonnet, and her matching brown eyes were for once relaxed. She seemed unaware of his presence. If he was honest with himself, this agitated him almost as much as the secrecy that compelled him to so formally offer his arm and walk with two or three spaces between them, in case her mother still observed them.
As they entered the private and more shaded area of the park, he stepped back and restlessly shrugged her hand away and stepped several paces to the side.
Elizabeth was not hurt by this, as he had hoped. She too stepped away and sat on a large rocky seat to the side. He watched as she wiped her forehead, her neck, and then finally undid the ribbon of her bonnet and let it fall beside her.
He had tossed her aside and there was not a hint of dismay on that serious young face. Still, her chin was set and a stray breeze from the leaves above made long waves from behind her ear dance against her cheek.
At long last when he did not approach her or start the conversation she peeked at him from behind thick curling lashes. It almost undid his anger. Almost.
"Won't you speak now, my darling, that we are out of earshot," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Or do you think my aunt has sent a spy to watch you?"
Elizabeth's lashes fell again and she quietly picked up her bonnet and placed it on her lap. "I am rather more curious about what urgency brought you here... I doubt you would have come otherwise, though I know I begged you."
There was such an unusual humility about her at that moment. Darcy could not but give in a little and he walked silently to sit next to her on the stone. There was a great long silent pause, until, bearing it no more she looked up at him, only to find he was watching her. He touched her face softly drawing his thumb over that softly rising cheek, and then chuckled as a rosy hue bloomed under it.
"I would have come Lizzy, simply because you had asked." he said and felt the certainty of it as he said it aloud.
Her lashes drew suddenly low as he bent and grazed a kiss on her cheek. Then suddenly he pulled away. He was watching Rosings. It was a dull, depressing sort of building, with pillars rising on either side, and looked even more so for all of the pricey renovations Lady Catherine inflicted on it, inside and out. Truth be told, Darcy hated it. Hated coming there, even if it was to see Elizabeth.
He felt a coolness by his hand and looking down saw it was Elizabeth's hand which had slid up to tap his.
"You are worried," she said. "Won't you tell me why before we go back?"
"Before we go back! Must we?"
Her brow knit in confusion, "Well yes--" She broke off as he stood up and ran an agitated hand through his hair.
"That is really the crux of the matter, my dear. How long shall we do this Lizzy? You've known me since I was a boy trying to find adventure with a stick on these very grounds. And I've been crossed in love with one and the same heart since."
"You doubt what I feel?" When he did not respond immediately her eyes flashed.
But he immediately relented, albeit with exasperation. "Lizzy I only want what every other man wants... To be with the one I love."
Such a sincere declaration delivered with all the vulnerability of an uncertain friend, could only move that cool lady. She stood and clasped his hands fervently, looking up at him with almond colored eyes alit.
"You must know that so do I! I have looked into the Bennets of Longbourn in Hertfordshire that you mentioned last time--"
"No really, it may be difficult to procure an invitation, but they were friends of my father's as you said, some distant relation. You might arrange to spend the summer with your friend Bingley there, if your father's health allows it."
She looked uncertain a moment. Perhaps it was the impossibility of procuring an invitation to stay with a family she had only heard of recently or the likelihood of Darcy staying away from Pemberley while his father lay ill. By her nearness she saw how repressed anger colored Darcy's face and how her words, her excitement, struck him.
He was quiet when he spoke. "And this is all you give me credit for?"
Elizabeth was silent. She felt the rush of the fear that had crept upon her in the still of the night--suddenly she knew.
"Tell me Lizzy," he said. "Can I not hope for more?" His voice was dangerously deep but he lifted her limp hand with a delicate touch.
"I thought we understood each other, but perhaps I have been wrong. My dear Lizzy, I ardently admire and love you, I always have. But till your visit to London I never hoped your feelings might be returned."
When he paused she turned, severing the light hold he had on her finger tips. He knew her well enough to suspect her reason for turning from him and there was a catch to his voice when he spoke again.
"You misunderstand me if you think that I have not made my feelings more generally known for any reason other than consideration for you, and what you felt necessary. Nay, Lizzy, it has been a most difficult secret to bear."
"Then bear it a little more," she could not help but cry. "At least till Anne is married and--"
"I cannot! Lizzy you think that you are protecting her but you are not. And what of me? Shall I continually come into your family, behaving as one unattached with feeling so attached?"
She was unmoved. Her face was turned in stubbornness, and she sat again on her rock. She quietly explained to him the reasons for her secrecy; they had argued on this point before and she had convinced him then, and so she would now. She could not anger her mother, disappoint her sister, or in actuality even be betrothed when she was not really out.
The sedateness with which she delivered this brought him down literally, till she was able to look into his face from her seat. "My darling! Do you not understand why I came? My father is dying, or so every physician fetched from town has told me. Can I not give him this one hope for the future? Can you not give me this one happiness -- of having my father witness to a union that will be so dear to us all?"
Her words ran dry. There was nothing that could be said after that. She could but take his arm and listen to his reassurances as they walked back. If she let fall a few tears, she made sure to let them fall on the dirt below, leaving no effect on her face. It was determined between them, before they arrived at Rosings, how to broach the subject with her mother and when. The details were lost to Elizabeth, however, and she allowed herself to be led to her room where she lay immediatly on the bed, her shoes and bonnet still on.