Jane Austen Quote: “I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavor at civility, I am thus rejected.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 34)
What if Darcy and Elizabeth both maintained civil tempers during the Hunsford Proposal?
Here is a brief excerpt.
The morning after the two gentlemen’s arrival, Mr. Collins hurried to Rosings to pay his respects and when he returned, he was accompanied by both gentlemen.
As mistress of the house, Charlotte gracefully received the gentlemen and they both paid their civilities to her. The introduction of Colonel Fitzwilliam was made to the ladies and Elizabeth was well pleased to make the acquaintance of the amiable gentleman. Mr. Darcy maintained his usual reserved demeanor; however his cousin was friendly and well at-ease, engaging the ladies and Mr. Collins in pleasant conversation. How the two gentlemen could be in any way related to each other was a mystery to Elizabeth. One was pleasant and lively; the other was silent and grave, staring at her with his usual disapproval.
At one point during the visit, Mr. Darcy broke his silence, inquiring after the health of Elizabeth’s family and after she informed him that they were enjoying the best of health, he had nothing further to say. Suspecting that the gentleman had played a role in the separation of Jane and Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth ignored the inner voice commanding her to hold her tongue and boldly offered an observation. “My eldest sister has been in London these past three months. Have you never happened to see her there?” she asked. She knew perfectly well that Darcy had not seen Jane but hoped that he would betray himself and reveal some knowledge of the separation scheme.
His response offered no such satisfaction. “I regret that I was not fortunate enough to have seen Miss Bennet in Town,” he replied with perfect civility.
Elizabeth was quite dissatisfied with this response but wisely listened to her inner voice and chose to remain silent.
Sitting in the parsonage drawing room that morning, Darcy could barely tear his eyes away from Miss Elizabeth. The long months of separation were finally over and he was exceedingly grateful to be once again in her company. She appeared just as beautiful as he remembered. She was mostly silent while the senseless parson rambled on at length about the generosity of the two gentleman who had condescended to pay a visit to his humble cottage and his unworthiness of such attentions. “Does the man have no control over the urge to spout forth such inanities?” he wondered. He gazed at Miss Elizabeth during this lengthy discourse and she seemed unaffected by his absurdities.
Richard, on the other hand, seemed vastly amused by the parson and encouraged him at every turn, inquiring about his expertise in the gardens, his opinions about the architecture of the cottage and his calling to the church.
“You confound me, Richard!” Darcy thought in exasperation while the parson recounted at length the inadequacies of his expertise and his appreciation of the notice of such a noble servant of the King. How it was that Richard could be so at ease in company with people immediately after making their acquaintance and could fall so easily into conversation with them, was a mystery to Darcy. “All these months I have hoped and waited to be in company with Miss Elizabeth again and not once did I ever consider what I might say to her,” he thought while Richard engaged the ladies in conversation, discussing their impressions of Kent, the parsonage and Rosings. “If I was more like Richard, I might inquire how she had occupied her time since our last meeting or if her family was in good health. Thus inspired he broke his silence. “Miss Elizabeth, I trust your family is in good health,” he told her, attempting to delve into the pleasant conversation.
She smiled in her inimitable fashion and answered so pleasantly that Darcy was distracted by her charms and was caught unaware by her mention of her elder sister. “Why would she divert the conversation to her sister?” he wondered. He had no desire to discuss the woman who had caused Bingley to abandon all rational thought. The visit came to an end shortly thereafter and he was forced to take his leave of her.
On their way back to Rosings, Richard suggested that they take a tour of the gardens. “So you met the charming Miss Bennet in Hertfordshire?” he asked. Darcy merely nodded his head, unwilling to divulge any further information. “She is a delight!” Richard observed. Darcy nodded evasively. “Her eyes have an uncommon vibrancy,” he suggested. Darcy nodded, keeping his eyes averted. They walked on in silence until Richard circled a small grouping of daffodils, quietly admiring them. “How long have you been in love with her?” he asked.
Darcy retained his well-practiced, reserved demeanor and offered no response.
“Come now, Darcy. I know you far too well to believe that you hold no regard for the delightful creature,” Richard insisted.
Darcy sighed in agreement; he knew it was of no use to withhold any information from Richard. He was far too accomplished at obtaining any information he wanted and would be relentless until he had the information he desired. “It is true; she is the most remarkable woman of my acquaintance,” he replied, meeting his cousin’s eyes directly.
Richard nodded thoughtfully. “However, judging from her style of dress, her circumstances are somewhat less than desirable and this has prevented you thus far from pursuing her,” he observed.
“How do you do that?” Darcy asked him.
Richard laughed with amusement. “I have always been able to read you, Darcy; however, my years in service to the King have enhanced my natural powers of observation.”
“And what else do you observe?” Darcy inquired.
“Hmmm” Richard sighed as he studied his cousin thoughtfully. “Despite your hesitation, you are determined to have her,” he observed.
Darcy nodded. “Indeed; furthermore, I cannot imagine my future happiness without Miss Elizabeth as my wife,” he admitted.
Richard nodded skeptically. “And does Miss Elizabeth share these sentiments?” he asked.
Darcy frowned. “I intend to make the best use of my time during our visit to discover the answer to that very question,” he replied.
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