Unfortunately, I’m still not well, though I am improving slowly. There will be no new chapter of A Quest for Mr Darcy this week, but posting will resume next week. I am sorry for any disappointment. 😦
In the meantime, I’m sharing a few scenes I wrote for Pride & Prejudice: Behind the Scenes. This was a collaboration between 15 Austen-inspired authors on the Austen Variations blog and was published last year. All the proceeds from this book go to Austen-related charities.
This scene, and the ones to follow tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, were all ones I contributed to the project. They give Darcy’s point of view of the immediate aftermath to his rejection by Elizabeth Bennet.
As A Quest for Mr Darcy begins with Darcy in the summer following his failed proposal, these seemed worth posting as in some ways they work as a ‘prequel’ to the story. The scenes are all based on and inspired by the original novel, not any of the adaptations, and therefore take their cues from what Jane Austen gave us in the book and also attempt to fill in some gaps.
I hope you will enjoy these whilst I am still recovering!
Scene One: After the Proposal ( A Rejected Darcy Returns to Rosings)
9th April, 1812
Removing himself from the room with the remains of his dignity in place took all of Darcy’s will power. He grabbed his hat and cane from the coat-stand in the hall and let himself out of the parsonage, thankful not to encounter any curious servants, and closed the door behind him with a resounding thud.
Then, he stood stock-still, the rigidity of his frame belying the incessant thoughts spinning around in his head. What, in the name of the devil, had just happened?
Be calm, Darcy cautioned himself as he inhaled deeply of the cool evening air, then stared about, striving to heed his own advice, but the rapid pounding of his heart and the raw anger filling his very being fought against him. How could the world look the same as when he had entered the parsonage, so determined, so fired up by his decision, so excited almost in his anticipation of claiming Elizabeth as his own? Elizabeth… Darcy could not bear to even think of her; she, who had ensnared his mind, his senses, and finally his heart. For longer than he cared to own, she had filled his thoughts… but now he must think of her no more. It was over; all over.
A momentary anguish gripped him, sweeping aside the wave of anger and disbelief that had carried him from the house. He must get away from this place, away from where Elizabeth remained but a few solid walls from him, an angered Elizabeth he did not recognise, speaking words he could never have imagined.
Somehow Darcy forced his body into action, at first his legs moving tentatively, as though they would not obey him, but then mechanically, rapidly, as his need to put space between himself and his recent humiliation increased. He strode quickly, his forgotten hat still clutched in one hand, but not fast enough to miss the chimes from Hunsford church as they chased after him.
Was it really only seven o’clock? Had all this – the utter destruction of his hopes and dreams, the defamation of his character at the hands of one woman – taken place in so little time?
Sufficient time, however, for it to have gone spectacularly wrong! Far from realising his dreams, the past half hour had unfolded into a nightmare of wretched proportions, and Darcy’s mind reeled with the relentless sound of Elizabeth’s voice and its cutting accusations.
‘…the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.’
Darcy willed her voice into silence, but failed to displace her image from moments earlier; her furious air and stony countenance smote him to his core, and he winced.
How could this be? Rejected! And what is more, rejected on every level: as a lover, as a gentleman, as a man of good character. Heat rose in his breast and stole into his cheeks as he strode along. Well, at least he had made it clear any affection he may have declared for her would soon be over. She would not believe him a love-sick pup, bemoaning his loss; she would understand the truth of it. What was it he had said?
‘I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been.’
Comprehend? He perfectly comprehended her feelings? Never! Never on this earth would he ever comprehend! But ashamed? He shied away from this thought. He did not wish to dwell upon what his feelings had been; they must be forgotten. Elizabeth Bennet did not deserve such honourable affections to be bestowed upon her, and certainly not from a gentleman of such standing…
‘…had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner’
Darcy came to an abrupt halt. Un-gentlemanlike? How could his conduct be considered anything but that of a gentleman? Was he not of excellent character, family and social standing, acknowledged by all for his integrity and honesty in his dealings with the world?
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman: it was how he was known, had been known ever since his majority. It was everything about whom he believed himself to be. How could Elizabeth question it? How dare she?
Releasing a frustrated breath, Darcy stared around. How could everything be so benign, so still, when all within was in turmoil, raging and broiling like a fierce torrent? Why were the birds still singing softly in the trees? Why were the heavens not thick with black clouds the like of which filled his mind, why was thunder and lightning not raging about him?
His throat felt tight, and he tugged at his neck-cloth as his gaze fell upon Rosings, ahead of him through a break in the trees. How he despised it and all it represented. Yet slowly he began to move again, walking towards the house with no choice but to return, his eye fixed upon the stone edifice, desperate to settle upon something to calm him; all was in vain.
‘… your arrogance, your conceit and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others…’
Ridiculous! Unfounded, totally erroneous accusations and, what is more, a slur on his character! His conduct was never questioned – never! What did she comprehend of his worth? Nothing!
A sudden memory touched him, words she had spoken at Netherfield, of seeking the illustration of his character, of trying to make it out, and Darcy was swept rapidly back to the previous autumn in Hertfordshire. Memories of Elizabeth flooded his mind and not even in his present anger towards her could he stem the relentless flow, nor taint the remembrance of his growing admiration for her back then. This interest in his character he had taken as affirmation of his being an object with her. It had stirred him beyond any expectation whilst simultaneously causing anguish of mind as he had acknowledged the futility of his interest in her.
It was the recollection of this struggle, of his vain attempts to cease his fascination with her, that roused his ire once more. His failure had been his downfall; enough with the lady! He swiped his cane angrily, decapitating wild grasses as he strode purposefully along, forcefully closing his mind to the past. The present, however, was less dutiful, and returned with a vengeance as once more Elizabeth’s angry countenance appeared before him, her beautiful lips showering him in false accusation. How could he have admired and valued her refreshing opinions when this was hers of him? How could he have been so mistaken, and how the devil could she have so misconstrued him?
‘Your character was unfolded in the recital which I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham.’
A physical pain seared Darcy’s chest. Elizabeth’s championing of Wickham had cut him badly. Why had he not refuted her accusations, defended himself against whatever it was the cad had claimed? Why had no words come to save him in his hour of need, no words to prove his honour?
Stopping suddenly, Darcy caught his breath. Perhaps he should go back – demand a further audience and make Elizabeth see the truth, force her to listen to his side of the story? Yet before such a foolish notion could take firmer hold, more of the lady’s words spun through his mind.
From the very beginning of their acquaintance, she had said. His actions as Elizabeth perceived them, towards her sister and Wickham, were merely contributory factors in building ‘so immoveable a dislike.’
Darcy sighed heavily. Nothing could be achieved by trying to put his case to her, nor could he face more of her anger, her indignation and risk even further censure from the very woman in whom he had trusted and upon whom he had, but an hour earlier, pinned all his hopes and dreams. All his inner struggles had been for naught, swept ruthlessly away by such precious hands.
Striding down the path, Darcy emerged into the immediate grounds of Rosings and headed for the stone path leading to the front entrance of the house. It was bordered by flowering cherry trees, the spring blossom opulent and the scent over-powering. Would he ever acquaint it henceforth with his present feelings?
Wearily, he climbed the stone steps to the imposing entrance and then paused before lifting the latch to enter to glance over his shoulder at the parkland lying between the house and Hunsford. Dusk was settling upon the treetops, drawing down a mantle over his return, the day ending, much as his hopes had.
His eye was caught by the only brightness, a scattering of pale blossom on the path along which he had just walked. It lay like petals from a bridal posy, mocking him, and with a feeling of disgust, Darcy turned his back and entered the house, intent upon seeking the solitude of his room.
He had barely made it to the third stair, however, when Colonel Fitzwilliam appeared in the hall.
‘There you are, Darce! You were missed at tea. What was the pressing business? I assumed you would be sequestered in your room, up to your ears in papers, but I see now you have been out!’
Knowing he was in no humour for company, no humour for anyone, Darcy ignored him and continued to take the stairs two at a time. The sanctuary and solitude of his chamber was all he could think of, all he sought.
‘Darcy!’ The Colonel was not one to give up a chase, however, and he bounded up the stairs behind his cousin. ‘Good grief, man, whatever is wrong with you?’
Wrong with him? Darcy stopped outside his chamber door and swung around to face the Colonel’s puzzled countenance. Bitterness seared through him as words almost fell from his tongue, sarcastic words, suggesting his cousin consult Miss Elizabeth Bennet. She would be able to enlighten him directly on all and everything at fault with Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. With difficulty, he bit down upon them.
‘Forgive me, Richard. You must excuse me.’ Before his cousin could make any response, Darcy entered the room and quickly closed the door upon the Colonel’s frowning face.
Tomorrow’s scene will be Darcy Writes a Letter.
Copyright: Cassandra Grafton, 2017