Darcy sat in a chair purposely situated by the window. Any semblance of a restful night’s sleep having eluded him, he was surrounded by darkness—the bright, full moon his only source of light.
Unable to avoid dwelling on the colonel’s admonishing words, he was given to wonder what his cousin was about in speculating on his intentions towards Elizabeth. Does he even know me?
Darcy did not trifle with young ladies’ affections. What he felt about Miss Elizabeth Bennet was something he had not experienced with any young woman, and his feelings were such that he wished to explore them further. The idea that she might indeed be the woman he chose as his bride had gone from being unthinkable to highly within the realm of possibility within the span of a few weeks; it was something that Darcy himself found hard to believe, and yet it had happened. All he wanted to do was spend time with her. Alone.
Of all people, his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam was making such a prospect more and more difficult. Never had he and his cousin been in company with any woman of any age or marital status where he did not earn the greater share of the woman’s approbation—even though his cousin was by far the more comfortable in such situations. He owed it to his wealth and status—inherent in being the eldest son, whereas his cousin was a second son, albeit the second son of an earl, but a second son nonetheless.
He was also not unaware that the colonel had a habit of spending time walking with Elizabeth too. Not that it bothered him so much. Colonel Fitzwilliam would have to marry a wealthy woman in order to maintain the manner of living that he so thoroughly enjoyed. On the other hand, Elizabeth obviously liked him.
Honor and respect. Certainly those affections evinced themselves whenever the two of them were in company as well. It dawned on Darcy that it would be better for everyone if his cousin took his leave of Kent. Besides, as an officer, Fitzwilliam had obligations that did not allow him to remain at Rosings at leisure. Darcy, on the other hand, had all the time in the world to spend in Kent getting better acquainted with the young woman who was compelling him to rethink everything he thought he knew about himself.
Thus resolved, Darcy knew exactly how to act. When the morning comes, I will do what I have to do to start setting things right, he considered as he rose from his seat and drifted to his bed to capture whatever bit of rest he could during the night’s remaining hours.
Elizabeth awakened earlier than usual that morning. Having practiced most every day since first being introduced to Lady Catherine and her noble relations, Elizabeth decided she would not be doing so on that particular day. She missed the pleasure of long solitary rambles.
The early morning sounds of birds chirping on the tree branches high above, the magnificent view of the rising sun, and the gentle caress of the crisp morning air encouraged Elizabeth to walk longer than she had been wont to do since her arrival, and hence she walked farther away, even beyond the beautiful lanes of Rosings Park. She had brought several letters from home with her in case she might wish to read them at leisure if she came upon the perfect idyllic spot.
Uppermost on her mind were thoughts of the two gentlemen to whom she was growing accustomed to seeing—how much alike they were on the one hand and how different they were on the other. She wandered along for several hours, her thoughts giving way to every variety of diversion, reassessing events, determining possibilities, and reconciling herself as well as she could to all that had taken place since her arrival in that part of the country. At length, fatigue and a recollection of her long absence made her return to the parsonage.
She was immediately told upon entering the house that the two gentlemen from Rosings had each called while she was away. The colonel stayed for only a few minutes before taking his leave, but Mr. Darcy had been sitting with them at least a half hour, hoping for her return, and almost resolved to walk after her till she could be found. Elizabeth could but just feign concern in missing the former. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object of her interest, owing to his candid admission that only a woman of means stood a chance of becoming his wife.
Neither was Mr. Darcy an object when Elizabeth bothered herself to think about it, even if he had spent a prodigious amount of time attending her. His declaration that he was not engaged to marry his cousin as well as his avowal of desiring a love match aside, Elizabeth was sure he was very likely to fall in love with a wealthy young heiress as men of his ilk were wont to do.
Charlotte’s supposition that Mr. Darcy was in love with Elizabeth came to her mind. As always, she quickly banished the thought as soon as it was formed. “If such a thing were true, would I not know it?” Elizabeth was wont to respond.
Upon finding herself alone later that day, she threw one more reflective glance over her acquaintance with Lady Catherine’s nephews. Indeed, I surely do not intend to regret either of the gentlemen’s absence one bit.
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