Pride and Prejudice - Told by Mr. Darcy...
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
As a single man of good fortune, I can attest to that statement for you. It is not because the man simply wants a wife to add to his happiness or impress his elders. I, Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, am in desperate need of companionship and romance, my loneliness to subside and my heart to open. However, I can’t seem to find the urge to fall in love. Any eligible young woman I’ve met has not sparked my interest the way I had hoped. No one is accomplished or as friendly as I would like. Bingley says all women are accomplished, but I simply cannot agree. Any woman who can play piano and draw and sing and is fluent in modern languages is a woman of many talents, which I have yet to meet, even with my fair share of young ladies, all of whom are rich enough to be considered equal birth. My aunt would forbid me to marry anyone below me.
“Mr. Darcy?” Miss Bingley, on my left, waved a hand in my face. “I am astonished. You have never been so distracted once, that I’ve noticed.” She scoffed and I looked out the carriage window. “It’s the country, is it not? You, as I am, are worried about the country. The air and the mud and Lord forgive me, the people.”
Bingley smiled across from me. “I’m delighted, dear sister, as I’m sure Darcy is, in order to try a new life. It’s only temporary, besides. We’ll be gone before you know it.”
Miss Bingley went on to talk about the country. Every tree she witnessed blowing in the wind, every creature and girl walking on the streets Every dress shop and house and mansion had some kind of remark, either shrewd or neutral.
I should have taken a separate carriage.
When we finally arrived, I daresay I could not disapprove. The Netherfield Estate was in fact a lovely one. Large white walls, large gardens, well-taken care of. Large stables, large pathways. Netherfield was large, at best. Miss Bingley commented again on every room and decoration, every piece of furniture. Most were positive this time, which I praised for. Living with a complaining Miss Bignely is every man, woman, and servant’s worst nightmare.
The Bingley’s and myself had hardly any time when news of our arrival made its way around town. I could practically hear the girls of the country squealing in delight at these two single men, both with good fortune.
“Aren’t you coming, Darcy?” Bingley laughed. “There’s plenty of handsome women.”
“I’m afraid you are dancing with the only handsome women in the room.”
“Is not her sister Elizabeth very agreeable?” I did not respond but stared at him. I must admit, at first I was skeptical that she was considered handsome. I have waited and waited to come here, just to see her and her sister, as news of their beauty has traveled far. However, the more I watched her the more I fell in love. Her smile warmed me and her eyes sent a spark. I would not tell her, however. The way she looked at me made it obvious she cared nothing for me. 10,000 pounds aside, I had nothing to her. No similar interest, no common background. My aunt would never approve of the depth of my affections. If my aunt could not know, no one could.
“She is quite handsome, but not handsome enough to tempt me. I have no interest.” I turned slightly and noticed I had caught Miss Elizabeth’s scornful eye. I lowered my voice in fear of being overheard. “Return to your partner. You are wasting your time with me.”
Bingley and I pondered news of the regiment coming to Merryton, while Miss Bingley wrote a letter to Miss Bennet, inviting her to stay.
“How is my sister?” Miss Elizabeth stood in the doorway, looking very refreshed and exercised. “I would very much like to see her, if it’s alright.” She gave me a quick glance but turned to follow the servant escorting her to her sister.
The very second she was out the door, Miss Bingley let out a ringing laugh. “How astonishing! I would never dare to show up to a higher rank’s house looking like that.”
“Pray, Caroline, tell us what was the matter!” Bingley set down his playing cards and I returned to writing my letter. “I thought she looked quite well, did not you, Darcy?”
“Her petticoat must have been three inches deep in mud, Charles! Her hair falling out, her cheeks flushed…”
“She was simply enjoying country air, no doubt concerned for the health of her sister.” I attempted to sound not too objective but still caught a side-eye from Miss Bingley.
“Honestly, walking three or four miles just to see her sister… No one would walk that far if they were of sound mind, now would they dear brother?”
“The only reason you say that Miss Bingley, is because you would like your brother to confess that he would do that for you. I can assure you, he would not.” The gasp that she left out was enough to make me smile and quit our conversation at the same time.
Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth were good company in those couple of days. Jane was very agreeable, today the least. Miss Elizabeth, I had guessed, had overheard my conversation with Bingley at the welcome ball and is forever full of hatred for me.
I reckon I should feel the same, however, I could not. In want of companionship, I had often been told to take the first woman who has an interest in me. Of course, that would be Miss Bingley in this case and I have no intentions of marrying my best friend’s sister. On top of that, she is an ignorant fool. Apart from her accomplishment, she has nothing for me.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet, despite her family, her arrogance, her prejudice, her accomplishments, has triggered an interest deep inside me I did not even know I had. I had a very deep regard for her, I thought very highly of her and her sister, though at this time I do not know that I would call it love. She was not what I had always wanted in a companion. Perhaps that all might change someday.
“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… and.. Love you.” Miss Bennet stared at me silently. “Miss Elizabeth, I would kindly ask for your hand in marriage-”
“It is natural to feel obligation right now or gratitude. I would thank you, but I cannot.” The sudden change of light to anger in her eyes and her cheeks flushing forced me to want to move back and pretend I had never claimed my love. Her lips quivered just at the sight of me. I was sure going into this was the wrong decision, but I could contain myself no longer. “I have never desired your good opinion and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am so sorry to have harmed anyone, but-”
“This is the answer I expected, of course.” My voice was quiet despite the anger rising in myself. She had always been the opposite of my yearnings, but I had fallen in love with her either way. I had admired her courage to speak her mind, but now when it was spoken against me I began to rethink my opinions over the last months. “I would like to know why I am out down with such little civility.”
“Do you deny that you have interfered? You’ve caused my sister harm?” I stayed silent. “I have not been uncivil, even in the mind of the civil. My refusal is perfectly appropriate after what you have said and done to my family. My dearest sister Jane-”
“Your sister was not half in love with Mr. Bingley as he was with her.” I straightened my back and stared at her eyes. They were unchanging. “I saved him from an imprudent and unsuccessful marriage.”
“My sister had a deeper regard for him than she does for me! She was heartbroken, though she wouldn’t admit it. Mr. Darcy, you have hurt multiple of my closest friends. Poor Mr. Wickham is in his state of poverty all because of you! You have deprived the best of his life and your interference with it has forced him to be in the regiment, and I-”
“Mr. Wickham? Mr. Wickham… This is your opinion of me, that standards to which you hold me? Based on Mr. Wickham…” I could not contain myself in another way, now. Now I let my anger and regret fly out. This must have been the worst proposal ever, what the deuce was I even doing here? “Yes, I have faults, faults that are heavy indeed… but I am not ashamed of my feelings. I had to tell you-”
“Mr. Darcy!” Miss Elizabeth took the few steps toward me and put her nose most close to mine. She let out in a harsh whisper, “You could not have made the offer of your hand in any way desirable, anyway that would have tempted me to take it. You have never impressed me. Not with your manners, your arrogance, your conceit, your selfish disdain for clothes. Most of all your pride. I am astonished you even had the courage to ask me the question you did.”
I swallowed. “You have said quite enough, dear lady. I know when I am not wanted.” She turned before I could. I watched the back of her head as she flew down the hallway, regret welling up inside me. Caroline Bingley was right. The country had ruined my head and my heart.
Still, no matter how desperately I wanted them to, the feelings did not go away.
“Fitzwilliam…” I looked up quickly at my younger sister. She smiled, taking the book out of my hands. “You’ve been most silent since your return, I would like to know what the matter is.”
There was something in Georgiana that reminded me so of Elizabeth. Something calm and gentle, despite your first impression of her. I had never seen Georgiana speak or act like Eliza, however. Miss Benet truly was never afraid of anything. Perhaps a single woman in possession of a small fortune was not always in want of a husband.
“Is it that girl again?” Georgiana whispered. “I would very much love to meet her, you know, brother. Everything you’ve said about her was so friendly, and I feel we’d be very good friends. In fact, it almost sounds like you’re in love with her. Are you dear brother? I would very much love to see you in love.”
I smiled at my sister and placed a hand on her neck. “I’m afraid you most likely won’t be meeting her, dearest sister. She has no regard for seeing me again. No interest in anything I have to say to her.”
“Then give her some.” She stood to play the pianoforte, leaving me behind to write my letters and ponder Elizabeth’s health. As I did, I thought of the first time I had been well acquainted with them both. Jane’s illness and Bingley’s willingness to take care of her. I had been so blinded by my best friend’s outgoing personality I hadn’t even thought that Miss Bennet might be shy. Judging her on the rest of her family, I hadn’t even noticed her regard. And I had furthermore ruined their relationship because of my own prejudice, and fault I hadn’t realised.
Miss Eliza had left hurriedly after meeting my sister. As soon as I could, I had hitched up my own carriage and traveled to London. Mr. Wickham, after nearly tricking my sister into marriage for money, had run away with the youngest Bennet girl, Lydia. I knew better than most that he most likely had no intention of marrying her but he did intend on taking her fortune and, more importantly, her virtue. The loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable, thank God my sister had listened and stayed away from him.
I knew that if Lydia would continue with her childish, immature ways, she would be sucked into the lies of Wickham if she hadn’t been already. That would bring shame and ruin upon the four other Bennet sisters, all of whom are still unmarried. No one would accept them. With my love for Elizabeth, I would not let that happen.
Mr. Gardiner, the Bennet’s uncle, had found Wickham and Lydia in London after a long search of many men. Lydia refused to leave Wickham and Wickham made no remarks on marriage whatsoever. Not until Mr. Garndiner had offered him money in addition to Lydia’s current inheritance.
I took my turn.
“Miss Lydia, how wonderful to see you.”
Lydia smiled, eyes wide. I knew she would not be pleased, surely Elizabeth would have told them of my failed proposal. “Mr. Darcy! Yes, you too, it’s quite a pleasure…” She stood, her arm linked into Wickham’s. He did not smile or greet me, as expected. Our childhood quarrels were not good ones and would never be resolved. I could not care, however. I wanted Wickham out of my life completely.
“I have a request I’d like to offer to you. Both of you.”
“And that is?” Wickham started with disdain into my eyes. I dared not to look at him for more than a second at a time.
I smiled, though I knew it was fake. If news of these two children reached my aunt, there was no hope for the Bennet girls at all, even after they did marry. “I’d like to pay for your wedding.” Lydia gasped and jumped. Even Wickham’s face lit up.
“Anything I can do to help you and your families,” They needn’t know all of my generosity is really for Elizabeth, and being the unripe children they were, they would not figure it out. I turned to end our conversation, wishing I hadn’t started it, but turned back quickly. “I would like to ask that this be kept a secret. Between just us three. No one else is to know of this, am I clear?”
Lydia nodded with such enthusiasm I was surprised it didn’t fall off. Wickham held out his hand. I shook it firmly, thinking to myself of how I could help my friends instead of my enemies.
I paced the grass, rearranging every word I possibly could. She told me my proposal was not tempting and I could have never made her want it. I was, however, willing to try again. She hadn’t been as rude or cruel to me the past few times we’ve met, so I did have just a small bit of hope that I might be smarter this time.
Any hope I had left me when I heard footsteps behind me. “Mr. Darcy? Whatever are you doing here?”
I turned and figured I wasn’t ready. Without any consciousness, I began to speak. “Miss Elizabeth, I would like to ask you one thing…” I stared at her, her hair shining in the sun, her shawl wrapped sound her soft shoulders and my heart overflowed with joy. “Miss Elizabeth, If your feelings are still what they were last spring, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you and I will be silenced on the subject forever.” We both smiled at each other. “I love you… most ardently. I know you have no reason to feel the same about me, I have not given you any, but-”
“Mr. Darcy. You have saved two of my sisters. Jane could not sleep at all last night knowing you brought Mr. Bingley back to her. Lydia, God save her, has not ruined our family. I have many reasons to love you.”
I stared at her, sudden fear in my chest. “Do you love me only for what I have done for them? You must know it was all for you…”
“I have been blinded by prejudice, Mr. Darcy. I have judged you from your first entrance at Netherfield and your first words about myself. I have not known anyone ever to be so kind as you. You are not proud.”
“You’ve taken the pride out of me.” I let out a breath as she laughed and looked to the ground. “Miss Eliza, I need to know as soon as possible. My aunt is convinced of my engagement to my cousin, which is not existent.” She looked up at me quickly. The confusion on her face was clear, but I set it aside. I grabbed her hands. “Do you love me?”
She stared at me for the longest time before breaking her mouth to a smile, finally. “I do, Mr. Darcy. I willingly give you my hand.”
I laughed softly. “I haven’t offered it yet.”
“All the while,” She pulled on my arm, escorting me back to her house. “You did last spring and I so terribly refused. I’ve reassessed my prejudice. I confess it is my greatest fault.” She turned on a smile that warmed my heart a way it had never been warmed by her before. “Just as pride is yours.”
“Was mine.” She giggled softly. “Loveliest Lizzie…” I raised her hand to my lips and kissed it gently.
We were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the Gardiners who, by bringing Elizabeth back into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting us.
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