Part 1 ~ Reflections
Darcy set down his pen and stared down at the product of his fevered writing. "Miss Elizabeth Bennet," the precious name, written in his own hand, defiantly stared back at him. Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth Bennet... Oh, Elizabeth!
He buried his face in his hands at the memory of what had transpired only a few hours ago. Never had he known such anguish- never had such remorse and helplessness filled his entire being. He loved her, his soul demanded her- and she was completely unattainable. She was utterly lost to him. The words echoed in his mind, eating away at the walls of confidence built by years of being treated as his family name accorded.
"You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than to spare me the concern I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner."
It would have been no greater a blow if she had soundly slapped him in the face. Whatever faults he had, Darcy had always considered himself a gentleman.
"Your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain for the feelings of others..."
"...the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
"Enough!" yelled Darcy, leaping from his chair. "Why should you care what she thinks?" his pride yelled at him. "That woman humiliated you! She deserves..."
In an instant his anger vanished, as he collapsed in the nearest chair.
"She deserves more than I could ever give her."
He looked back on his behavior to her and felt such overwhelming shame... When had he shown her anything but coldness? In his breast, so many emotions had been brimming at the very sight of her that he had forced silence upon himself, lest he say too much. He had openly disdained her family, and insulted her, Darcy fought the memory with a blow to the arm of the chair, from almost the very first moment of their acquaintance.
No wonder, then, that she had given credence to Whickam's lies. When had he ever given her reason to doubt them?
And Fitzwilliam Darcy, master of Pemberly, trusted brother, employer, and leader among his peers, held his face in his trembling hands and wept.
The following morning found Elizabeth in a restless mood. She was tired of brooding on him and his horrid proposal- she felt the need to get out and lose herself in the beauty of the woods.
If an escape from thinking of Darcy is what she was longing for, however, she could not have picked a worse plan. As she rounded the first bend, his commanding figure came into view, and she had no sooner seen him than she felt the snap of a treasonous twig beneath her feet. He turned, and she was already walking away. "I should never have come," thought Elizabeth, "I should never have come..."
Darcy, having just found his courage, was not about to let her go so easily.
"Miss Bennet!" he called to her, and she turned to face him.
"Mr. Darcy." she replied, looking steadfastly down at her feet.
"I have walked the grove for sometime in the hope of meeting you."
What was she to think? After all she had said, he had the courage, even the desire to face her again. She suddenly noticed the letter in his hand, and realized the purpose of this meeting. She did not want this...
Darcy was preoccupied with his own thoughts. She was so beautiful, why did she have to be so beautiful? "I hope that last evening has not caused you- distress."
Elizabeth looked quickly up at him, meeting his bold gaze. "I am quite well, I assure you."
Never would an assurance of her well-being hit him so hard. He was conflicted, a thousand emotions tearing through his brain, and she was well! Untouched...
"Miss Bennet, I must..." he paused, and struggled to regain control of himself. "Will you do me the honor of reading this letter?"
Desperately hoping his hand was not trembling, he forced himself to make a curt bow and remove himself from her presence. She would never be his.
Elizabeth's whole being was trembling as she watched him retreat, and looked down at this missive. Her name was carefully written in his firm hand. She opened, and prepared herself for the worst.
"Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you by dwelling on wishes that you have so easily disdained, and would not have willingly pained you further had not my character required this letter to be written and read. You must; therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.
Two offences of a very different nature you last night laid to my charge. The first mentioned was, that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had detached Mr. Bingley from your sister; and the other, that I had, in defiance of various claims, in defiance of honor and humanity, ruined the immediate prosperity, and blasted the prospects of Mr. Wickham. If, in the explanation of them which is due to myself, I am under the necessity of relating feelings which may be offensive to yours, I can only say that I am sorry.
(Here we all know the Bingley story)
I have since learned to condemn these motives, which, until last night, I believed were acceptable. You, quite unknowingly, have allowed me to fully understand the unyielding pain that I have forced upon two people most worthy of happiness in marriage. My objections to the marriage were, as you so plainly stated, arrogant and conceited. I can only hope to remedy this mistake as soon as is within my power.
(And you undoubtedly know the rest...)
Elizabeth was in an emotional state she had never known before. The words blurred on the page, but were already etched clearly in her memory. Unrestrained regret and self reproach flooded her senses.
What had she done?
This Mr. Darcy was not the proud, hateful man she had seen in Hertfordshire. How seriously she had mistreated him! To accuse him of... Elizabeth shuddered at the mere thought of Wickham. How could she have ever believed in such a man? He was tenfold the villain that she had ever considered Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth did not regret refusing his proposal, however. She could never, never marry without love, and she barely even knew this Mr. Darcy.
Although Mr. Darcy was quickly and completely acquitted of any cruelty towards Wickham, he had still treated Jane and Bingley abominably. And yet, in this letter, he had admitted that he was wrong! The proud Mr. Darcy, humbled. The Jump to new as of April 26, 2002
thought did not please Elizabeth nearly as much as it would have only a few days ago. Surely someone could not change so drastically in only a day?
And with a start, she realized that he had not changed all that much. He had never been the man that she had loathed. Mr. Darcy was a good man, with flaws to be sure, but with the grace to admit them when...
Her words came back to her, and she winced. Not only had she misjudged him, she had misjudged herself. She had slandered this man, and treated him horribly, constantly wishing him ill- and yet he still loved her. Loved her enough to want to spend the rest of his life with her. Elizabeth had always considered herself kind and compassionate, but she had treated Mr. Darcy with a cruelty she didn't know herself capable of.
What had she done?
She gathered her wits as best she could and started her way back to Hunsford. She barely registered her disappointment when Maria informed her of Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam coming to take their leave. She was to go to Gracechurch Street in a week, and she wanted nothing more than to hear the calm sweet voice of Jane!