“In vain have I struggled,” he said. “It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions.”
He gathered me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips. In my turn I struggled, like a wild frantic bird. My efforts soon set me at liberty.
“Mr. Darcy! Unhand me, Sir!” We were standing in the small parlour, and I moved behind one of the chairs before continuing. “In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, let alone their physical expression. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot. I must make it clear that I have desired neither your good opinion nor your caresses.”
Mr. Darcy’s complexion became pale, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. At last, in a voice of forced calmness, he said,
“Elizabeth, dearest Elizabeth, if I may call you by that sweet name, I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion!”
“I regret, Sir, I cannot comply with your request. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to anyone. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration.”
“You, you rare, you most unusual woman, I love as my own flesh. I entreat you to accept me as your husband. I must have you for my own, entirely my own. Say, yes, quickly.”
His well-bred face was very much agitated and by now very much flushed, and there were strong workings in the features and strange gleams in the eyes.
“Mr. Darcy, pray calm yourself. You are too impetuous. It would be better if we parted now, and went our own ways.”
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to refrain from following after you. Whither you go, I will go, and where you live I will live. However, it does seem to me we should be happier at Pemberley than at Longbourne.”
Mr. Darcy’s fervent language could not but affect me. I wished to speak from my heart, as he did, but my words come from my intellect. I am cool and amused by nature. Was passion impossible for me? No, oh no. The vehemence of emotion was claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway, and asserting a right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise and reign at last!
Outside, a wind had sprung up. I could hear the ivy lashing at the window and, beyond, the chestnut tree writhed and groaned. The sky was overcast.
“Sir, we both need time in which to cool our cheeks,” I said hastily, retreating as he advanced once more toward me. “and to think rationally.”
He bowed assent and held the door for me, and I passed through.
* * * * *
The wind had dropped. A splendid midsummer moon now shone above the horizon and the stars had entered into their shining life up in heaven yonder. I stole through the gardens, quiet as a moth, aware that Mr. Darcy too was abroad. The scent of his cigar made pungent the atmosphere, battling with rose and lavender and honeysuckle. This seemed to me a valid symbol of our relationship. I turned back toward the house, but at a junction in the paths we collided. He made no greeting but, taking my shoulders in his strong hands and looking deeply into my eyes, plunged at once into speech.
“You are too generous, Elizabeth, to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were this afternoon, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged.”
A soft breeze came sighing down the laurel-walk, and trembled through the boughs of the chestnut. A nightingale sang.
“Elizabeth, do you hear the nightingale singing in the trees? Listen.”
“Are you in earnest, Mr. Darcy? Do you truly love me? Do you sincerely wish me to be your wife?”
“Oh, Elizabeth, you torture me!” he exclaimed, all serenity gone. “With that searching, analytic, yet humorous look, you torture me!”
“How can I do that, Mr. Darcy? If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings for you must be respect— and—and— perhaps liking— they cannot torture.”
“Respect! Liking!” he exclaimed; and added wildly -- “Elizabeth, accept me quickly. Say, Fitzwilliam—give me my name— Fitzwilliam, I will marry you.”
I forced myself to speak, and gave him to understand that my sentiments had undergone so material a change during our time apart, short though it was (barely two hours), as to make me receive with gratitude and pleasure—even with some exhilaration— his present assurances.
“Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth, the happiness which I now feel is such that I have never felt before!”
I glanced up at him through my lashes and found how well the expression of heart-felt delight became him.
He folded me in his arms. “Come to me, Elizabeth—come to me entirely now,” he said; and added in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, “Make my happiness—I will make yours.”
My heart leapt. My cheeks crimsoned. But he was going too fast. This was unseemly.
“Mr. Darcy!” I exclaimed, taking a step back (but retaining his hands firmly in mine). “Remember who you are!”
With apologies to Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, and my acknowledgment to the Book of Ruth.