Pride and Imagination

Summary: What if Darcy resolved to walk after Elizabeth until she could be found? Would he be able to explain himself adequately, despite his lack of conversational skills? This short story begins the morning after the Hunsford proposal. (One Shot)

Disclaimer: "Pride and Prejudice" is the creation of Jane Austen. This story is property of the author. © 2015

Jane Austen Quote: "She was immediately told that the two gentlemen from Rosings had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few minutes, to take leave—but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found." "Pride and Prejudice", Chapter 36.

Jane Austen Quote: "I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done." "Pride and Prejudice", Chapter 31.


Fitzwilliam Darcy knew every inch of Rosings and he refused sit idly by, waiting for Elizabeth's return. He took his leave with all the propriety he could muster for a man whose heart had been torn asunder, quit the parsonage and quickly took to the paths that he had previously traversed with the lady.

He and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam had gone to the parsonage to take their leaves of Mr. and Mrs. Collins; Darcy's only purpose had been to see Elizabeth and judge for himself if she still harboured any resentment against him. However, upon their arrival, he had been alarmed to learn that she had not yet returned from her morning walk. It had been over an hour since he had delivered his letter to her; a letter in which he attempted to restore her good opinion of him. He had hoped to find her more receptive to him; at the very least, he hoped she no longer despised him. He had patiently waited for her return at the parsonage, listening to the insipid Mr. Collins drone on endlessly about matters of no consequence and finally having his fill of the senseless ramblings, he left to search for Elizabeth.

He searched the paths, parks and groves surrounding Rosings and finally found her sitting in a secluded garden adorned with a vine-covered trellis. She wore her brown pelisse over a pale green muslin gown he had admired on previous occasions. The wide brim of her bonnet protected her face from the sun and also served to block him from her view.

He stood nearby but did not speak or announce his presence. He watched her turn the pages of the letter over and back again, as if to re-read certain passages. It had been more than hour since he had delivered the letter and he took some comfort in the knowledge that she was giving it her full attention; however, he grew restless and whispered her name. She looked up from her letter and he finally beheld her eyes, which were usually lively and filled with mirth, but now held a melancholy he had not previously observed. The knowledge that he had caused her sadness sliced through him and he knew not what to say.

Finally, he approached her and bowed. "Will you walk with me, Miss Elizabeth?" he humbly inquired. She folded the letter, slipped it into her pocket and rose to join him. He offered his arm and she silently accepted.

They walked onward in silence for a few minutes and she broke the silence: "Mr. Darcy, I can only regret my recent speech against you," she replied with a pained expression.

"No, Miss Elizabeth, the regret is all mine."

"But you were undeserving of such a response."

"And you deserve every consideration, which I failed to give you." They walked on a few steps more and he felt the tension between them most acutely. "Did the letter help you think better of me?"

"Oh yes, I am ashamed of my accusations against you. Mr. Wickham has grievously abused you and your sister."

He nodded. "And he has deceived you, Miss Elizabeth, as is his custom." She nodded and was silent. "I could not bear knowing that you despised me."

"I do not despise you, Mr. Darcy," she told him with repentant eyes. "I have always considered myself a great judge of a man's character but now I find myself sadly deficient in that particular skill."

"But you possess another skill in which I am sadly deficient; conversing with ease."

"I find myself at present unable to apply that skill."

"Perhaps you would be better able to discuss it with your sister," he suggested.

She nodded: "Unquestionably, if Jane was here."

"I hope to convince you to imagine that she is. What would you tell her?"

"If she was here, I would tell her that I received a most unexpected proposal from Mr. Darcy."

"Why was it unexpected?" he inquired.

She averted her eyes: "Jane would know the answer."

He stopped walking and covered her hand with his own: "But I do not. Close your eyes and explain it to Jane for me."

She closed her eyes: "I had no idea that Mr. Darcy admired me. I thought he disapproved of me."

"Why would he disapprove?" he whispered, softening his voice.

"His gazes were filled with disdain."

"Perhaps his intent was not disdain."

"No, I now realize the intensity of his gazes had a different meaning."

"He must certainly hold you in affection."

"But he never displayed any affectionate regard; not even a smile or a compliment. I feel certain I would have recognized it."

He sighed and shook his head in frustration.

"He insulted me; he said that marrying me would be a degradation," she continued.

"That was wrong of him," he whispered, hanging his head.

"I was so infuriated, I lost control of my temper."

"You had every right…"

She interrupted: "No Jane, I said terrible things to him… unforgivable things," she cried.

"I am sure he forgives you," he whispered, retrieving his handkerchief and handing it to her.

"No! His good opinion, once lost is lost forever!" she cried, wiping her eyes and clutching the handkerchief.

He could not allow her to continue: "No, Miss Elizabeth, you have not lost my good opinion. You shall always have it! But I fear I shall never have yours for injuring your sister," he regretfully replied.

She opened her eyes and nodded sadly: "I wish you had not done so. They might be happily married by now."

He could not disagree: "I have the same wish," he replied, feeling a profound sense of loss and taking a step away from her. "You and I might be happily betrothed if I had not interfered." An unbearable silence followed until he felt her hand on his sleeve.

"Mr. Darcy, I imagine you have no difficulty expressing yourself with your sister."

"No, none at all."

"Close your eyes and imagine she is here. What would you tell her?"

He closed his eyes: "That I inexplicably interfered in the lives of people that I hold in high esteem, causing them the greatest pain, which I now regret beyond all measure."

"What is to be done?"

"I shall do anything in my power to make amends. I will seek out my friend and advise him of Miss Bennet's location."

"I am certain that she would welcome a visit from Mr. Bingley." He opened his eyes. "She is at our uncle's house on Gracechurch Street." He nodded. "What would you tell your sister about me?"

"I would tell her that you are the most enchanting woman of my acquaintance."

"Would she approve of me?"

"Unquestionably!"

"But she would disapprove of my family," she suggested, averting her eyes.

"No, I dare say she would find no fault with them whatsoever."

She returned her gaze to him with sadness: "But you find fault with them."

He could not deny it: "Their behaviour sometimes lacks propriety."

"As I am well aware. If your sister would not object, then certainly your Aunt would."

"I care not for Aunt Catherine's opinion."

"She seems determined that you marry your cousin."

"Yes but she is alone in her determination."

"To what then did you refer when you spoke of family obstacles?"

"My uncle; but I would certainly overcome any obstacle he presented."

"But my condition in life is so decidedly beneath your own," she replied, looking away once again.

He winced: "How I wish I had never said such a thing."

She nodded.

"Close your eyes," he told her, grasping her hands. Observing her closed eyes, he closed his own. "Georgiana, I had every expectation that Miss Elizabeth would accept my offer. I never once suspected that she might reject me."

"Jane, I delivered the most disgraceful, undignified, undeserving rejection!"

"She told me that I am the last man in the world she would ever marry."

"He pointed out my inferiority."

He opened his eyes: "Those words were spoken in anger."

"I suppose we both were driven by anger."

"Open your eyes. Are you angry now?" he inquired.

"No. Are you angry now?"

"No." He brought her hand to his lips. "I apologize for offending you."

"I apologize for misjudging you."

"If given the chance, I would do things differently."

"What would you say?"

He squeezed her hands: "I would tell you that I love you, that I have loved you these many months, that I shall love you always and wish to be with you always. I would tell you that despite my failings, I would do everything within my power to please you, to make amends to you and be the man worthy of your affection."

"And I would tell you that I am honoured to be the woman you love; that I have always longed for such a love," she told him and hung her head, "but I have never been in love."

He sighed, feeling helpless, searching for a solution: "Perhaps I might convince my friend to marry your sister."

She became instantly alarmed: "No Mr. Darcy, you must not convince Mr. Bingley of anything! You may advise him of Jane's location but he must decide for himself if he wishes to renew the acquaintance and she must decide if she is willing to allow it."

He nodded his agreement: "May I call on you in London?"

"I would like that," she suggested, returning his handkerchief to him.

He shook his head to refuse it: "May I have your handkerchief instead?"

She smiled as she pulled her handkerchief from her pocket and offered it to him: "That seems an agreeable trade," she told him with a misty-eyed smile.

He grasped her hand instead of the handkerchief: "My dearest Miss Elizabeth, it is my greatest desire to make amends to you and secure your hand. I will do anything you require." A tear trailed down her cheek and he grasped her handkerchief and gently dabbed her face. She smiled and nodded and he tucked her handkerchief into his pocket. They then noticed movement on the path and observed Colonel Fitzwilliam approaching them. "My cousin has come to take his leave of you," he advised her as they walked towards him.

The Colonel joined them with an easy air: "There you are, Miss Elizabeth! I am vastly relieved that my cousin has found you."

"I must apologize for causing you to worry, Colonel. My morning ramble took far longer than I expected today."

"As long as you are well, it is of no consequence." They all continued on the path to the parsonage.

"I am well but sorry to lose your company; you and your cousin," she replied, gazing at Darcy.

"We shall be sorry to lose your company as well, Miss Elizabeth, and I hope to see you again," the Colonel replied. When they arrived at the parsonage, he bade her farewell.

She wished him a safe journey and took her leave with a proper curtsy. Turning to Darcy, she curtsied again: "I shall see you next week, Mr. Darcy," she told him with a smile.

"I shall look forward to it, Miss Elizabeth," he replied.

Darcy watched her as she turned and walked toward the parsonage. The door was opened by a servant and she stepped inside and disappeared.

The two men turned and walked up the path to Rosings: "Next week?" the Colonel asked with a teasing grin.

He nodded wistfully: "If all goes well," he replied.

"Of course it shall go well! When have things not gone exactly as you desired?" his cousin teased.

"It is quite rare, indeed."

"Rare? Ha! I should say never!" he jested.

Darcy grinned. No, it would not do to disabuse his cousin of that notion.

~~o~~

One week later, Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief as the carriage turned into Gracechurch Street in Cheapside. She was moments away from her aunt and uncle's house and her reunion with her family; how she longed to embrace them and feel their affection once again. When the carriage finally came to a stop, the front door of the house flew open and her family emerged, welcoming her with open arms. How wonderful to be with loved ones again, she thought as she stepped down from the carriage. Aunt Madeline and Uncle Edward were the first to greet her.

When Jane approached her she flung her arms around her and embraced her dearest sister with warmth and affection after their long separation. Jane was smiling broadly and whispered into her ear: "Mr. Darcy is here."

Elizabeth gazed at her sister with disbelief but was prevented from further inquiry by her four young cousins, who tugged on her skirt, demanding her full attention. She embraced each one and they chattered on in excitement, each vying for her attention.

They entered the front hall and while she removed her bonnet and pelisse, Aunt Madeline smiled affectionately at her: "Guests have come to call on you, Lizzy," she said, grasping her hand.

They walked into the sitting parlour where she beheld, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy and a young, fair-haired girl whom she could only assume to be Miss Georgiana Darcy. She could not help but notice a hopeful expression on Mr. Darcy's face.

She exchanged civilities with the two gentlemen and they inquired about her journey. "Yes, the roads are in excellent condition," she told them, with no small amount of discomfort.

Mr. Darcy approached with his sister and inquired if she was agreeable to an introduction, to which she instantly agreed. The introduction was performed quickly and Miss Darcy smiled shyly: "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Elizabeth. My brother speaks highly of you."

She felt the eyes of her entire family on her and flushed with embarrassment: "I have heard nothing but praises about you, Miss Darcy," she replied.

Aunt Madeline came to her assistance: "Will you sit with us, Mr. Darcy?" she inquired, gesturing to the sofa.

Mr. Darcy shook his head: "Thank you for your kind invitation, Mrs. Gardiner, but I have no wish to impose on your reunion with your niece. We shall take our leave but I hope you and your family will come to Darcy House for tea tomorrow," he replied with all civility.

Her aunt gazed at her for a moment and Elizabeth nodded her approval: "Yes, we should be pleased to come for tea, Mr. Darcy" she replied.

~~o~~

As Elizabeth walked the paths of Longbourn, she recalled the week she had spent in London. Mr. Darcy had all the appearances of a man in love. His gazes were just as intense as they had always been, but now accompanied with affectionate smiles and hopeful eyes. Miss Darcy was a delight; she had sung her brother's praises in a shy, unaffected manner. Jane was happy once more, pleased with the renewed acquaintance with Mr. Bingley who had called at Gracechurch Street as soon he had learned of her location.

How much had changed in such a short time. Mr. Darcy had been everything a young man ought to be. She had not the least cause to complain about his behaviour. He had paid her every attention, he had been amiable with her relatives, he was a perfect host, and he had even indulged her young cousins by reading their favourite story. The man who had previously worn a constant scowl had changed to a constant smile and agreeable manners. He had received such glowing praise from her aunt and uncle that she could have no doubt that he had made those improvements to gain her favour.

As she stood at the base of her favourite tree, it seemed to be calling her upwards. She had climbed that tree many times in her youth and had withstood her Mama's reprimands when she had torn her skirts. She swung up to the lowest branch and, minding her skirts, easily reached her usual perch. In days past, her concerns were few; today however, her only thoughts were of Mr. Darcy. He had promised to call on her this week and she hoped to see him today. She longed to see his warm smile and hopeful gaze; knowing that those features were meant for her made all the difference. "Was a man who had been so fiercely spurned likely to renew his address?" she wondered. She hoped he would but still, she wondered.

~~o~~

Darcy and Bingley had returned to Netherfield and were impatient to call on Longbourn. Darcy had quickly bathed and changed his clothes with the aid of his accomplished valet. Knowing Bingley's preference to linger overlong when changing his attire, he left a message with a servant that he had gone on ahead to Longbourn. He had no desire to delay his reunion with Miss Elizabeth. He collected his horse from the stable and set out on the path connecting the two estates.

Over that past week, he had made every effort to please her and he was certain that he had observed acceptance in her eyes. Of course, he was certain of nothing and was eager for a private moment with the lady to confirm his assumptions. Securing her hand was of the utmost importance and he would not rest easy until that had been accomplished.

As he approached Longbourn, he spied a familiar length of pale green muslin float into the upper branches of a tree and disappear. When he arrived at the tree, he called up: "May I join you, Miss Elizabeth?"

After a momentary pause, she replied: "You may."

He hoisted himself up to the lower branches and gazed upward to behold her amused countenance. "It has been some years since my tree climbing days," he told her.

"Do be careful, Mr. Darcy!"

He easily reached a branch opposite Elizabeth and made himself comfortable: "Are you hiding from someone?"

"No, I used to come here often when I was younger, to escape my Mama. Today I just wanted to reminisce," she said with a glowing smile.

He nodded: "I am pleased to see you in such high spirits. I hope I have attended to your complaints against me."

She nodded: "You have and I must thank you for doing so. My sister is much improved."

"As is my friend." She nodded. "Are you disinclined to despise me now?"

"No Mr. Darcy, I have no further complaints against you."

"That is encouraging, perhaps, one day soon, if I am on my best behaviour, you might come to admire me or… even love me," he suggested.

"That is quite possible," she replied, holding his gaze.

He was encouraged by her steady gaze: "That is my greatest hope."

"And if I am on my best behaviour, I might not abuse you quite so cruelly."

"If that is your desire, you may abuse me whenever you are so inclined but I hope I shall never give you cause."

She smiled: "We should go. My Mama would scold me if she knew I was here. A lady never climbs trees."

"Nor does a gentleman. May I assist you?" he asked, reaching for her hand. She placed her hand in his and he pulled her closer: "Will you allow me to court you?"

"That is an excellent notion," she easily agreed.

"I have another notion that you may approve of," he suggested as he leaned in close to her face. "A kiss?" he whispered.

She nodded and he softly pressed his lips to hers. He felt a sense of relief as he heard her sigh. "I must speak to your father immediately," he told her.

"Must we rush off?" she inquired with a disappointed frown.

"I thought it was your desire to leave but we may stay as long as you wish," he replied. She leaned in closer for another kiss, grasping his coat lapel.

He kissed her again and he knew not how much time had passed when he finally pulled away. "I have changed my mind, Miss Elizabeth," he told her with a longing gaze. She beheld him with some confusion. "I find a betrothal far preferable to courtship," he whispered, gently kissing her.

She sighed and returned his kisses. "We are of the same mind, Mr. Darcy."

"I must speak to your father," he whispered.

She frowned: "I wish that your thoughts would not constantly turn to my Papa at such inopportune moments, Mr Darcy," she teased him.

He kissed her hand: "I give you my word, once I obtain his consent to marry you, I shall never mention him during such moments."

"Close your eyes, Mr. Darcy," she instructed and waited until he complied. "In the next few days, can you imagine that we might have the opportunity to return to this tree?" she inquired.

He imagined that once their betrothal was known, he would have little opportunity to climb a tree and kiss his beloved. He opened his eyes: "I see your point, Miss Elizabeth," he replied, pulling her close for a tender kiss. "But you must not despair. There are any number of proper climbing trees at Pemberley," he suggested in between kisses.

She laughed: "I dare say that it would be quite scandalous if the mistress of Pemberley was found partaking of such an activity," she told him with a sly smile.

"But perhaps if the master were to initiate such a rendezvous it would not be so scandalous."

She sighed: "Mr. Darcy, please promise me that you shall always gaze at me just like that," she implored him.

He caressed her cheek: "I always shall. I love you and my affections shall never waver."

"I love you, Mr Darcy."

"Will you not call me Fitzwilliam?"

"I love you, my dearest Fitzwilliam."

"I love you, my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth," he told her, giving her one final kiss. "I must speak to your father!"

She nodded: "We shall both speak to my Papa." He assisted her to the ground and they walked arm in arm towards the house.

~~ THE END ~~

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