A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Fifty

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A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Forty Nine

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A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Forty Eight

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A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Forty Seven

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A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Forty Six

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A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Forty Five

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Pride & Prejudice: Behind the Scenes – Four

In this final scene on the day following Darcy’s initial proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, the Colonel fills in a few gaps for Darcy. If you hadn’t read these before, I hope you have enjoyed them! If you had, my apologies for a week of nothing new from me. Posting of Quest will resume next week, I am pleased to say!

A Conversation between Cousins

10th April, 1812

Darcy had filled the remainder of his final day at Rosings with activity, determined to exhaust both his mind and body and leave no room for thought or feeling. After a long ride, during which he tried not to think of Elizabeth or how his cousin’s presence had been received, he returned physically fatigued but still fighting his memories and his despair.

The ensuing hours were spent sequestered in his chamber, burying his head in matters of business; matters he had ignored during his repeatedly extended stay in Kent, with correspondence from his steward at Pemberley, his legal advisors in London, and even his sister, abandoned as his fascination with Elizabeth had taken full hold and left him powerless to think of aught but her.

It was evening, therefore, before Darcy encountered any other person, where he endured, much as he had anticipated, a long lecture from his aunt over his absences in the past eight and forty hours. Dinner passed with Darcy contributing little to the conversation, but there was no escaping his cousin as he all but marched him from the room when the time came to separate, ignoring Lady Catherine’s annoyance over the men withdrawing before the ladies.

‘And so,’ said the Colonel, glancing over at Darcy as the two men approached the library, ‘here ends another visit to Kent and yet no proposal of marriage!’

Trepidation shot through Darcy, and he threw his cousin a frantic look. ‘I beg your pardon?’

They had reached the door, and the Colonel turned to face him. ‘Cousin Anne, old man. Aunt Catherine will now have to spend a further year attempting to draw you down to Kent at every turn.’

Preceding his cousin into the room, Darcy berated himself for his foolish thoughts. Of course, Richard was referring to Anne; he had no reason to think otherwise. Elizabeth would never have mentioned… she would not even have hinted at what had befallen her the previous evening… He gave an involuntary shudder as he came to a halt in the centre of the room.

‘Are you well? You look…’

Darcy turned about and raised a hand. ‘Be done with it, Richard.’ He had no desire to know how he looked.

With a shrug, Colonel Fitzwilliam closed the door and came to stand before him. ‘I regret to inform you I failed in my mission, Cousin.’

Mission? Of course! ‘She would not believe you.’

The Colonel shook his head and walked over to the sideboard where a tray of spirits glistened in their crystal decanters. ‘I had no chance to try her, Fitz. I waited beyond an hour, suffering all manner of inanities from the hapless parson, but she did not return. I contemplated walking out to try and come across her, but the park is so vast and the lady, as we both know, a keen walker. It would have been akin to seeking a tack in a hay bale.’

Taking the proffered glass from his cousin, Darcy walked over to the fireplace where he stood and stared into the flames. Why had Elizabeth stayed away so long? Was it an indication she had read his letter and needed time to consider it? Did she comprehend at last how faulty her judgment had been?

‘Darce?’

With a start, Darcy glanced over at his cousin who was now seated in a fireside chair, watching him keenly.

‘Sit down, man; it makes my neck ache to look up at you standing there so stiffly!’

Darcy did as he was told, sinking into the opposite chair and placing his glass on a nearby side table. ‘I appreciate your efforts. It was a foolish hope, that she might wish for clarification, might wish to at least consider the truth of all I had shared with her.’

Silence descended upon them, disturbed only by the crackling of the fire in the hearth. Darcy stared into the flames again; what might Elizabeth be doing at this moment? Had his letter made any difference at all, or had she destroyed it unread? Was her disgust at his attempt to address her in such a manner so powerful, she had not permitted him the liberty of doing so?

Her face rose before him, dark eyes flashing and her lips speaking those cutting words, words that were in danger of haunting him forever:

Had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner…’

‘It is a shame I did not know of your intentions beforehand, Fitz.’

Darcy’s gaze flew to meet his cousin’s. ‘How- how so?’

‘I met Miss Bennet during my farewell tour of the park yesterday, and we continued in company.’ The Colonel frowned. ‘We spoke of you; it would have been the perfect opportunity to provide the authentication you sought from me over Wickham.’

Leaning forward slowly in his seat, torn between curiosity and trepidation, Darcy stared at his cousin. ‘You – you spoke of me?’

‘Indeed,’ the Colonel picked up his empty glass and got to his feet, gesturing to his cousin to drink up. ‘Though she would likely have been in no humour to hear me out. My last memory of Miss Bennet is not of the pleasing good nature I had long associated with the lady. Her air and countenance were sufficient to guide me in her dissatisfaction with your actions.’

‘What in heaven’s name were you speaking of?’ Darcy fixed his cousin with a fierce stare. ‘What did you say to cause her such… such discontent with me?’

The Colonel shrugged. ‘I merely advised her of your care for others, most particularly in saving a friend recently from an imprudent marriage. I mentioned no names, though I assumed it was Bingley. He is the most likely to get himself into a scrape of that sort, and you have spent an inordinate amount of time with him these past months.’

Releasing a slow breath, Darcy sank back against the cushions of his seat. Elizabeth’s understanding of his part in separating his friend from her sister was finally clear. Whatever her own suspicions may have been, this intelligence from his own cousin would have been sufficient to confirm her worst opinion of him. Though he saw now his suit would never have succeeded, he began to appreciate the significance of the timing of his cousin’s revelation so close to his own call upon the lady.

Grabbing his glass, Darcy took a hefty swig, letting the liquid burn a trail down his throat. Then, he handed it to his cousin, who turned towards the drinks tray.

‘Would you like to know what I think?’

‘A rhetorical question, Cousin. You will tell me, regardless.’

Colonel Fitzwilliam grunted. ‘You are inordinately troubled over the opinion of a young woman whose path will likely never cross with yours again.’

Knowing he had looked his last upon Elizabeth was sufficient trial without his cousin reinforcing it. The tight band around Darcy’s chest flexed itself, and he swallowed hard on a sudden constriction to his throat.

Taking his refreshed glass from his cousin, he tried to breathe evenly to ease the tautness.

‘I can well observe the matter is best left alone for the present.’ The Colonel raised his glass to Darcy. ‘Here is to the end of our captivity in Kent, be it to duty or otherwise.’

Clearing his throat, Darcy nodded, thankful for the reprieve and raised his glass in return. ‘Indeed.’

‘Besides,’ the Colonel settled more comfortably into his chair. ‘There will be ample time for further discourse on the way to Town on the morrow.’

With that, he turned the conversation to Georgiana and the upcoming summer, and Darcy reluctantly followed his lead, unsure what unsettled him most: the notion of another endless night with no sleep and nothing but his disappointment and despair to console him or what his all too observant cousin may choose to challenge him with as they finally left Kent, and Elizabeth Bennet, behind.

~o0o~

And this day was the last time Darcy saw Elizabeth until she mistook him for a fox some eighteen months later! 😉

As you probably know, the Prologue to A Quest for Mr Darcy picks up about two months after the above scene, when Darcy makes his decision to go abroad in August rather than return to Pemberley.

Thank you for bearing with me whilst I get myself back to full health. I am beginning to feel better and have started work on knocking next week’s chapters into shape! 😀

Copyright: Cassandra Grafton 2017

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Pride & Prejudice: Behind the Scenes – Three

Here is the third scene from the day after the failed proposal – Darcy waits in the grove at Rosings Park in the hope of seeing Elizabeth and being able to hand her his letter:

Walking in the Grove

10th April, 1812

Darcy strode firmly down the path, away from Rosings and towards Hunsford, half expecting a shout from behind him and for his cousin to come after him. Not finding Richard lying in wait for him outside his chamber on cautiously opening his door had been a relief – he had not relished the notion of using the servant’s staircase instead.

Despite his desire to leave the house undetected, however, Darcy knew he must speak to the Colonel regarding one portion of his letter – that pertaining to Wickham. His pace eased a little once out of the immediate grounds, and he pushed aside any difficulty which may arise with his cousin. It was not his focus; for now, he must just keep walking, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Why was it his head knew his purpose, the only option for private delivery of his letter being to meet Elizabeth out on one of her walks, yet his body showed such reluctance to retrace his steps from the previous day?

As he reached the area spanning the southern edge of the park, his gaze scanned the trees and paths. Where might Elizabeth be on this fine morning? What if she had chosen not to walk, for fear of encountering him?

What if he came across her, but she would not take the letter? Perhaps she might take it but never read it, consigning it to the grate in the way his first attempts were! How would he ever know if she permitted him the liberty of an explanation?

A sense of panic gripped Darcy, and he stopped abruptly. Had he seen his last of her already? Anguish almost overwhelmed him at the thought of never seeing her again, never hearing her voice.

‘You fool,’ he muttered bitterly. ‘What possible good could come from seeing her again? She despises you; you heard it from her own lips.’

After their heated exchange the previous day, the accusations levelled at him, her words still cut through Darcy like knives. He felt wounded – hurt and humiliated by her. With the stirring of his anger again, Darcy harnessed it. He needed to feel his outrage once more, to enable him to stay strong, to do this. Straightening his shoulders, he stared ahead, scanning the park for any sight of the lady; then, he set off towards the grove where he had most often encountered her.

Soon he passed beneath the outer trees of the grove, and for some time Darcy paced to and fro under their canopy, his courage wavering one moment, his irritation drawing him back a moment later. Where was she? He flicked open his watch; he had been here nigh on twenty minutes – how much longer should he stay?

Perhaps this was how it was meant to be. Writing the letter could never be considered a sensible action; perhaps he was being saved from making an even bigger fool of himself. Darcy pulled the letter out and stared at it. Should he leave, do as he had already considered and consign this letter to the same fate as his other attempts?

The neatly written name, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, wavered before him, and he traced the lettering reverently with his finger. This would be the last time he would ever see those precious words upon the page.

With a rush of sensation, Darcy was consumed by the feelings he had repressed throughout his sleepless night. How was he to make his way forward in life and never lay eyes upon her again? Would he ever hear word of her, learn what life had lain before her?

What if… what if Elizabeth had been likewise afflicted? Perhaps with a night of contemplation she may have allowed him a hearing, may have thought carefully about all he had said and recognised she had made a mistake? Had she reflected upon their conversation, acknowledged she had erred in her judgment? Had she, even, reflected upon the offer of marriage she had spurned, of all that she was turning down? Perhaps…

Hope floated swiftly through him; for a moment, he truly believed it might be so. The heavy weight in his breast seemed lighter, the future – one he had imagined lately with so much pleasure – made a tentative gesture to return. Lost in such futile speculation, it was a moment before Darcy discerned a figure beyond the palings of the park, moving along the lane: Elizabeth! Swallowing hard upon his trepidation, he walked forward in the hope of meeting with her by the gate, but on glimpsing him, she turned away as though she would avoid him. A sense of despair gripped him, and he called her name, anxious to stall her escape lest this was his only chance.

‘Miss Bennet!’

All was dashed in an instant as the lady stopped and turned to face him, her air and countenance proving her to be wishing herself anywhere but in his presence. With hindsight, he was thankful for it. It restored some measure of pride in him, encouraged him to say as little as could be whilst doing what must be done.

Darcy stepped forward quickly as Elizabeth, with palpable reluctance, walked to meet him by the gate. This reminder of how things truly stood, coupled with the wariness upon her pale countenance, struck him forcibly. There would be no second chance, no hope of her having repented her fierce condemnation of his character or her refusal of his hand.

Ignoring the pain gripping his chest anew, Darcy pulled his tattered dignity about him like a cloak, straightening his shoulders and raising his chin.

Presenting the letter to her, which Elizabeth instinctively took, he said in what he hoped was a measured tone, ‘I have been walking in the grove some time in the hope of meeting you. Will you do me the honour of reading that letter?’

Then, he bowed and turned away, walking as quickly as his pride would permit, even as his heart protested against leaving her. Why oh why had he not brought his mount, that he might be away from here more quickly? Increasing his stride, Darcy refused to give in to the urge of a backward glance; he strode on, trying in vain to banish the image of Elizabeth, pale and strained and reluctant – oh, so reluctant – to meet him. On and on he walked, his heart pounding almost as much as on the previous day, and before he knew it, the monstrosity of Rosings had risen before him.

‘Darcy! There you are!’

Looking up, Darcy saw his cousin walking briskly down the steps from the entrance to the house, bent upon joining him. The timing was opportune. He must make haste and enlighten his cousin – enlighten with much concealment – that he might be on his guard should an application be made to him during their final hours at Rosings.

‘You are out early for a walk! I am off to the stables, such a fine morning warrants a gallop across the fields. Will you join me?’ The Colonel peered more intently at him. ‘You look like you need one, you are pale as can be!’

‘Cousin, I need you to do something for me.’

The Colonel frowned. ‘I am well versed in taking orders, Darce, but not from such a source. What would you have me do?’

They turned to walk in step together towards the stable block, a silence falling as Darcy struggled to phrase what he wished to express as vaguely as possible. Silence, however, was not in the Colonel’s nature.

‘Well come on, out with it!’ He threw his cousin a quizzing look. ‘Does this have anything to do with your rather odd behaviour yesterday evening? Our aunt took some pacifying, I can tell you, when you did not show your face at all.’

Darcy’s pace slowed and perforce so did the Colonel’s, and they came to a halt beside the mounting-block outside the stable. Drawing in a steadying breath, Darcy met his cousin’s curious gaze.

‘Something arose yesterday – a situation… I mean, a conversation,’ he halted as a vivid memory of his meeting with Elizabeth seared through his mind. That is what you call a conversation’, whispered the ever-present voice in his head, but he pushed it aside. ‘I have found it necessary to inform Miss Elizabeth Bennet,’ again, he stopped and swallowed hard on rising emotion as her name passed his lips. ‘I had to share with her the past history of our dealings with Wickham.’

What! Are you taken with madness?’ The Colonel met Darcy’s defiant gaze with incredulity. ‘No, Fitz,’ he shook his head, ‘surely not everything?’

‘Yes. I am sorry, Richard; there was no alternative but to lay before her the connection between him and the Darcy estate in each and every aspect, both pecuniary and… personal.’

The Colonel grunted. ‘And am I to be told why you found it necessary? I assume you feel you can trust to her confidence? You have been in her acquaintance far longer than I.’

Did he trust her? It was a question that had beleaguered Darcy throughout the penning of those parts of his letter. Before yesterday, he would have given an affirmative without hesitation, but after her damning condemnation of his character, did he retain any faith in her?

‘Darce? Come on, man! This is important!’

‘Yes – yes, forgive me, Cousin. I do trust her.’

‘Hmph. And pray, how did the lady receive such intelligence? I assume you are not going to enlighten me as to why you felt it necessary?’

‘It was necessary, Cousin. Please just accept my word and that I would not have gone to such lengths had there been any other alternative.’ Darcy passed a weary hand across his forehead. ‘I do not know how she received it. I put it in a letter which I have just handed to her.’

The Colonel for once seemed lost for words. He stared at Darcy wide eyed in surprise, his mouth slightly open, but then he seemed to rouse himself. ‘A letter? You addressed her by letter? You truly are losing it, Darcy! ‘

Darcy merely shook his head, but his cousin fixed him with a fierce stare. ‘I had no choice, Richard. Please just trust me in that. All I would ask of you is that vouch for the truth of matters with regard to Wickham, should she seek clarification. I told her you were aware of each and every circumstance.’ He could not handle an interrogation from his cousin at that moment, and he turned away. ‘You must excuse me; I will leave you to enjoy your ride.’

‘Wait!’

Darcy turned back warily, but his cousin’s countenance was less forbidding now and more expressive of concern.

‘We must take our leave of the company at Hunsford, Darcy. Shall we go at once? I can defer my ride if you would rather get it over with.’

Darcy paled. ‘Must we?’

The Colonel shook his head. ‘Really, Darcy. You know we must.’

Why had he not thought of that? Darcy could feel trepidation rising at the thought of such a fraught occasion. Would Elizabeth have returned directly from her walk, or would she still be enjoying the beauty of the morning? He looked about frantically. What could he do, how could he deal with this?

Then, the Colonel grunted. ‘With hindsight, perhaps not; I suggest we make our calls separately.’

Darcy blinked and then stared at his cousin. Separately?

‘Why do you not run along now and do your duty, and I will call in an hour or so. Should Miss Bennet wish to approach me regarding any of the content of your letter, she is unlikely to do so in your presence, do you not think? I can easily suggest a turn in the gardens to give her ample chance to air any concern she may have.’

A wave of relief rolled through Darcy and he nodded quickly, thankful for his cousin’s level head. ‘Yes – yes, of course. I will go directly.’

The Colonel hailed the stable boy to ready his mount, then turned back to Darcy and stayed him with his hand as he turned to leave.

‘I will do as you ask, and I will do it willingly, but I am no fool, Darcy. I can see that there is something far beyond what you are revealing in all of this. Do not think you will get off this lightly when we are both returned. You owe me some answers.’

With that he turned and strode into the stable, and Darcy walked back down the path towards the lane to Hunsford. If this call must be paid, the sooner the better, and then let it be over. He hoped desperately, for both his and Elizabeth’s sake, the lady had yet to return to the parsonage, but regardless, he would spare them five minutes of his time and no more.

Beyond that, he did not care to think, for he was unlikely to fair any better on his return to Rosings. His cousin was a keen interrogator; he would not let him off lightly.

~o0o~

The final scene from this ‘prequel’ covering the aftermath of Darcy’s failed proposal, A Conversation between Cousins’, will be posted tomorrow!

Copyright: Cassandra Grafton 2017

 

 

 

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Pride & Prejudice: Behind the Scenes – Two

Continuing with this ‘prequel’ of sorts to A Quest for Mr Darcy, here is the second scene from the aftermath of the failed proposal:

Darcy Writes a Letter

9th April, 1812

Having dismissed his valet with the strict instruction he was not to be disturbed, Darcy had fallen wearily into a damask-covered armchair near one of the windows of his chamber. For some time, he simply stared ahead, but then his shoulders drooped, and his head dropped into his hands as he rested his elbows upon his knees. Thus he continued for some time, the passing of the hours making no impact upon him, nor the alteration in the light; he remarked neither the chimes from his mantel clock nor the falling dusk finally being consumed by the night.

The only disturbance to his introspection had been Colonel Fitzwilliam rapping on his door some time ago, but he had ignored him, closed his ears to the sound.

Gradually, Darcy had begun to acknowledge some of the content of Elizabeth’s words. Her refusal had been a profound shock, but to learn of her dislike of him, her poor opinion of his character… the pain occasioned by such knowledge, accompanied by the devastation of all his hopes for the future, was almost more than Darcy could bear, and for a time he had become lost in the depths of his own despair.

Struggling with a combination of disbelief and a dreadful sensation of sadness, of loss, Darcy found himself unable to remain calm, coolly assessing his situation, to assume an outward appearance of control, all things which had been ingrained in him since childhood – an edict from his father: one must always keep oneself under good and strict regulation.

But how to put this debacle behind him, how he was even to make a beginning was beyond him. His hands tightened on his aching head as he stared at the floor, conscious of a dull heaviness settling close to his heart. Despite his efforts to the contrary, he could focus on nothing but Elizabeth; over and over spun the facets of their meeting through his mind, the echo of her words, the memory of her countenance and her steadfast dismissal of him – his character and his hand – and her passionate defence of George Wickham.

Darcy stirred in his chair. Elizabeth’s defence of that worthless bounder had cut him badly. His anger towards her had slowly been diminishing, but this recollection roused it quickly, his mind tormented by questions for which there were no answers.

What level of intimacy existed between them? Elizabeth had shown a surprising understanding of Wickham’s present circumstances – or at least, whatever he had portrayed them to be. Clearly, he had informed her of the living, though no doubt he left out the pertinent fact of his taking a pecuniary benefit in its place. Raising his head slowly, Darcy leaned back in his seat, then pressed a palm against his pounding forehead.

Was the lady’s outrage on Wickham’s behalf born of tender feelings for the scoundrel? If he had imposed himself upon her… the ache within his breast intensified, and Darcy caught his breath. He knew not how he would bear it if it were so. He rose quickly from his chair and then peered into the grey light within his chamber, finally becoming conscious of the darkness. Then, he walked to the dresser against the far wall and lit a couple of lamps from which he also lit two candles. He stood for a moment, both candleholders in hand, staring at them as if unsure of their purpose, before walking over to place them on an ornate writing desk near one of the other windows. Then, he began to pace to and fro across the room.

Wickham was evil; he was degenerate and unworthy. That he had maligned Darcy’s character to Elizabeth surprised him not; she would hardly be the first person to whom he had appealed, but to what extent had he imposed upon her open and generous nature? How was it that, in their brief acquaintance, Elizabeth had such a picture of him from Wickham? With a groan of frustration, Darcy turned on his heel and paced back across the room. Such thoughts were counter-productive; none of it signified, for even had Wickham not vilified his name, he had to accede that, in Elizabeth’s eyes, his faults lay in more than one quarter.

“Do you think any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?”

How had she come to such a conclusion? Was it merely a supposition, an attempt to draw him out on the matter, to confess? Well, he had done as she wished; he had owned it openly, including his satisfaction over the outcome.

Darcy paused in his pacing as an uncomfortable notion filtered into his head. Could he have erred? Had the lady’s affections been truly engaged, as Elizabeth had implied?

No! He had the right of it! He had made sure to observe the lady closely and had thus done his friend a great service. How could Elizabeth doubt his good intentions? For heaven’s sake, Jane Bennet and Bingley’s acquaintance had last but two months from start to finish! ‘As did yours with Elizabeth,’ whispered a voice in his ear.

Darcy sighed heavily. If only he had been strong enough to do the same for himself. He had tried, oh how he had tried, but all his efforts were proved worthless when the true test came. Had he not fallen at the first hurdle? From the moment he had learned of Elizabeth’s presence in Hunsford, he was a doomed man.

Wearily, Darcy dropped into a chair adjacent to the desk and stared unseeingly at the window, oblivious to the darkness without and his pale and gaunt reflection flickering in the shadow of the candles.

Elizabeth’s accusations haunted him, the discovery of her ill opinion consumed his every thought, and he could perceive no respite from it. Why had he not defended himself, spoken up to refute her allegations? Why did he not speak, challenge her words with the truth as he knew it to be?

He needed resolution, to defend himself and his character – but how? Her opinion of him was a matter of no little import, and if there was aught he could do so she despised him less then do it he must.

Darcy’s troubled gaze fell upon the writing instruments on the desk, and he studied them thoughtfully. A letter went quite against the form; moreover, in all likelihood she would refuse to accept it and, even should she do so, he had no guarantee she would read it with any intention of believing his word. It was hardly a fool-proof plan, yet he had no other.

Yet it was the only answer. Opening the drawer of the desk, Darcy retrieved a piece of parchment, selected a pen and flipped open the ink well. The letter must be written and without delay.

~o0o~

Dawn had risen over Rosings Park, the day beginning with the beauty of a sunrise quite lost upon the occupant of one dimly lit room where the fire had long smouldered in the grate, and the candles had burned low in their holders.

Discarded sheets of parchment littered the desk and floor, testament to the struggle Darcy had faced in trying to put his case to Elizabeth. Forcing himself to recollect every memory of their discussion had stirred his anger once more, but as the night passed, his exhaustion dampened some of the fire in his belly. In its place, an ache had settled beneath his breast, at times gripping him with such intensity as words poured from his pen that he had struggled to continue.

Then, as the clock on the mantel chimed eight in the morning, he began his final draft; within a half hour, it was done – all but the close.

Darcy dipped his quill into the ink-well one more time, and then paused before placing the tip of the pen on the page. How did one close the most difficult letter one had ever had occasion to write?

He hesitated, then wrote, I will only add, God bless you, followed by his name. Blotting the words firmly, he then folded it precisely and reached for a roll of wax and one of the candles. It was done, and all he wanted was to rid himself of it, that he might shed once and for all his past hopes and dreams.

This thought propelled Darcy from his chair, and he strode over to the window. Having failed to close the shutters on the previous evening, the morning light poured into the room, and he narrowed his eyes against the glare. The day was fine; his only hope of passing his letter to Elizabeth was if he could encounter her in the park; a call upon her at the parsonage was unfathomable on such a purpose.

With that in mind, he headed to the washstand, splashed some water over his face, and turned to survey the room where he had been closeted. It was time; he must dress without delay and find a way out of the building without being perceived.

~o0o~

The third scene, Walking in the Grove, will be posted tomorrow.

Copyright: Cassandra Grafton 2017

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Pride & Prejudice: Behind the Scenes – One

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.

~o0o~

Tomorrow’s scene will be Darcy Writes a Letter.

Copyright: Cassandra Grafton, 2017

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