Darcy thought back long and hard over the events of the prior day—how he had come so close to kissing Elizabeth—a young maiden, a gentleman’s daughter. She must think I am the worst sort of man, hardly a true gentleman—evidencing my desire for her with no mention of my intentions towards her, my honorable intentions.
He had come exceedingly close to allowing his most cherished dreams of her to turn into reality. On the other hand, had things progressed they most certainly would be betrothed by now, for he was positive that a single brush of his lips against hers would have released in him the urgency to make her his.
A single kiss is all that it would take. There could not possibly be any turning back after that.
Elizabeth cannot have failed to discern my desire for her without forming some expectations of where it is leading. As a respectable man, he dared not spend another moment alone with her in the absence of an avowal of his ardent affections as well as his heartfelt intentions.
It was precisely this new resolve that accompanied him along the lanes that morning in the direction of the parsonage.
Her head full of Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth prepared with more care than she was wont to do that morning. She wanted nothing more than to see him again, and she hoped to encounter him again on her walk. Memories of being in his arms had been her constant companions since parting with him at the parsonage gate, memories both pleasing as well as perplexing. While in his arms, a part of her knew it was the only place in the world she wanted to be—the fanciful part. Another part of her knew it was the last place in the world she ought to be—the sensible part.
Each additional step along the path with no sight of Mr. Darcy gave voice to the latter part. He must surely think I am wanton, and he wants nothing more to do with me. Her fanciful part posited a more tenable explanation. It is not as though he promised to meet me this morning. Perhaps I ought to go to Rosings to practice today. No doubt, he will expect to see me there.
Her sensible part would not be repressed. If Mr. Darcy wishes to see me today, he knows where to find me. Thus resolved, Elizabeth turned and headed back to the parsonage.
She was not disappointed upon her return to learn that Mrs. Collins had gone out on business. Indebted to her aunt Mrs. Gardiner as well as her dearest sister, Jane, as a consequence of their recent unanswered correspondence, she saw this as an excellent opportunity to catch up on her letter writing.
She had just sealed the second missive when she was suddenly roused by the sound of the doorbell. Her spirits were a little excited by the idea of a visit from Mr. Darcy, and she was further rewarded when, indeed, he walked into the room.
She gave him a warm smile and, setting aside the sealed letter, rose to greet him with a polite curtsey. He bowed. Elizabeth’s joy was short-lived, replaced instead by a bout of curiosity for the gentleman’s air was quite different from when they last parted company. He had resumed the reserved attitude which best characterized him during the earliest days of their acquaintance. Not knowing what to think or how to feel, she invited him to sit—an invitation he promptly declined with a slight wave of his hand. She offered to ring for tea. He declined that too.
Elizabeth sat back down at Charlotte’s writing desk, folded her hands in her lap, and waited.
Then he did sit down, but only a few moments passed before he stood again and commenced walking about the room. All this Elizabeth observed in silent wonder.
After several moments of continual silence marked by slight agitation, he came to her. “Miss Elizabeth, I fear I have been woefully remiss in not being completely honest with you—”
Suspecting her worst misgivings were about to unfold, she felt her heart slam against her chest. Is Mr. Darcy about to confess to me that he does indeed intend to honor his family’s wishes and marry his cousin Miss Anne de Bourgh?
Does this explain his agitated state? Elizabeth colored. She stared. She breathed in deeply, endeavoring to maintain the appearance of composure while preparing for what was to come.
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