This is an AU scene I wrote for Pride and Prejudice when I was, well, feeling bored. Eloquent, yes? Anyway, 'tis a one-shot and it takes place when Elizabeth and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner visit Pemberley. I so loved writing it. hehe.
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It was terribly unsteady of her character to think so, a jot hypocritical to say the least, but the mansion of which she could have been mistress was the most alluring, beautiful place she had ever seen. The grounds were extensive, vastly indescribable, and indoors it was no less kingly, with rooms that outshone the whole of her house altogether. Elizabeth Bennet's breath caught just imagining she was walking in such a heavenly estate; but she had to keep her amazement under control, lest her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, grow suspicious of her - rather wistful - behaviour.
They were just about to be shown out to the grounds when Elizabeth caught sight of a room that captivated her attentions utterly - a brass-handled, heavyset door leading into a towering library. The sensations in her heart were too evident to dismiss, and having no desire to do so, called out to Mrs. Gardiner, who was walking ahead, to go along without her; that she shall find them later, and that there was a most particular room claiming her fancy that she just must go explore.
'You are quite sure, Lizzy? Pemberley's grounds are its most famous attributes - surely you do not wish to miss them?'
'I am quite sure. I shall see them from the carriage, at any rate.'
Mrs. Gardiner turned to the housekeeper, silently asking permission, and upon hearing an affirmative, said to Elizabeth with a smile, 'Go on, my dear. Mr. Gardiner and I will out on the grounds if you need anything.'
Elizabeth nodded and watched them descend a stairwell, pause next to a large portrait, and then, with polite solemnity, move out of her line of sight. Somehow, without their presence, she was more willingly able to reflect and think. As she slipped into the library, closed the door behind her, and began to study the shelves of old, musky books, she found herself wishing for the company of her eldest sister, whose common goodness and good-natured thoughts quite balanced her own, and, in providing a sense of contentment to both, might have cured the feeling she was imposing on herself that she was wrong in disregarding his attentions. As Elizabeth's fingers traced the spines of the tomes, she felt a feeling rise up within her of great resentment, of herself and him, that she was becoming superficial in the worst of ways, and that she was allowing self-doubt to cloud her judgment. Had it not been her own words that it was her desire to marry for love, not wealth or situation in life? Elizabeth danced across the most earnestly vexing idea that if he were any other man, she would not have thought twice of him; however, because of his property, wealth, and - dare she say it? - comely features, she was, to say the least, haunted by his proposal and the startling letter that followed. If what he had said was true, his sincerities well-intentioned, might it have been so terrible to be his wife?
Elizabeth reprimanded the thought immediately. Hateful, insufferable man! she thought angrily to herself, you are still determined to uproot my life!
She clenched her hand against her thigh as if to vent some anger into it; but in not succeeding, Elizabeth transfered her attentions to the book at her eye level. It was an old thing, nearly falling apart, and Elizabeth opened its pages gingerly. The stanzas of a well-known poem were read by her eyes, and she found herself becoming lost in the eloquence of it, feeling the powerful lurch of heart that she so oft affiliated with nostalgia. Holding the book up to her face, she moved backwards, nearly tripping over a stool in her haste, and sat down on an armchair.
So involved was her mind in the process of reading that she quite forgot the time, and until the footsteps of her aunt reverberated in the gloomy corridor did she realise just how late she had stayed; she was attempting to put the book of Lord Byron's poems back into its rightful place when Elizabeth heard the footsteps halt and door being opened to the library. Elizabeth turned around, an apology for being so late on the tip of her tongue; but as she did so, a displeasingly familiar voice addressed her in utmost astonishment:
Elizabeth was immediately, without warning, looking into the face of a man she so long detested, so long despised, it was considered nothing short of blasphemy on the part of both to be merely in the same room together; and so close after his proposal of marriage ... Elizabeth was mortified, and as she felt the shame of her flushed cheeks she concluded that it was the most humiliating experience she had ever come to know.
Struggling to regain her composure, Elizabeth said in cold, witless civility, 'Mr. Darcy.'
She soon found herself in the most awful of situations: she had not even the remotest idea how to act around him, and he was standing firmly in a spot that blocked her exit from the room. It would have been customary to sit and ignore him, perhaps settle for a scathing conversation of wits, but Elizabeth found herself quite numbed by his sudden appearance, as did he, and he did not fully recover his facade of rigid pride before he said quite softly, 'Your family is in good health, I hope?'
'Yes,' said she.
On closer inspection, Elizabeth realised his cheeks to be coloured as well, and she felt such a feeling of humiliation, to be caught in his house, in his library, without so much as an invitation or explanation, when she had so decidedly pointed out to him the loathsome asperity she harboured for him! To be looked upon as deceitful and depthless, throwing herself in his way once more, and acting against the very core of her character by doing so! What he must think of her she could not bear to wonder!
'You are well?' he asked.
Rather than becoming infuriated by her her appearance in his home, Mr. Darcy seemed unaffected, unperturbed. Elizabeth found herself growing angry at this - why such a change in character? For reasons she did not understand, it irked her so to see him so civil, so kind, so concerned.
Elizabeth did not know what to say. Mr. Darcy, in perfect gallantry, gestured to the armchair and said, 'Do sit down, Miss Bennet.'
'I am afraid,' said Elizabeth, steadying her breaths; 'I am afraid that I cannot trespass on your time any longer, Mr. Darcy. My aunt and uncle are waiting, and I have been gone quite long enough -' She walked forward and moved to brush past him, but he caught her arm.
'You did read my letter, did you not?' said he in a hushed sort of voice. The intimacy of it sent chills through Elizabeth's body.
'Yes, I did,' and pulling herself out of his grasp, she backed away. 'I did, and I am quite sorry about what happened to your sister. I admit myself mistook on that matter.'
A wan smile graced his lips. 'I am indeed surprised. But your tendancy to misjudge first impressions, I suppose, mingled with my less-than-civil attitudes towards yourself and your family, have always been the barrier in our relationship, has it not?'
'I am quite at a loss to what you mean. I shall not call it a relationship - more of an aquaintance in which neither party is inclined to behave in a genteel manner.'
'You are determined to hate me.'
'Not hate you, Mr. Darcy. No - I only wish to despise you in peace.'
Mr. Darcy only responded, 'I find it difficult to believe that your opinion has not yet changed of me, Miss Bennet, considering your approbation of my letter.'
Conceited man! fumed Elizabeth silently. She then said, her voice becoming slightly louder,'You flatter yourself with my approval then? You believe that because I had been in the wrong about Wickham I am obliged to commend you for such chivalry? No,' laughed Elizabeth dryly, 'no, Mr. Darcy, I am afraid I am not a woman to be so easily turned.'
'I am sorry you feel that way.'
'Why are you so sorry? Shall I ask you - or do I already know?' She paused as if waiting for an answer, but upon recieving none, said angrily, 'I suppose you consider yourself my superior, the only man of my aquaintance to make me accomplished and happy. Are those not your thoughts, Mr. Darcy?'
In her asperity, Elizabeth had taken a step closer to him, as if to express her emphasis further; and in doing so, brought her within a few feet of him. But instead of backing away, Elizabeth held her ground and stared up at the tall, proud, handsome man whom she so resented; and her surprise at their closeness was not so great as his, who said quietly:
'I have never owned those thoughts, Miss Bennet.'
'Really! I am surprised indeed!' cried Elizabeth in scathing sarcasm. 'You have never once thought yourself my superior, never judged my behaviour according to - perhaps - Miss Bingley and her sister? I find it hard to comprehend, Mr. Darcy, that a man of your importance and level in society would not think of the disadvantage to marrying such a woman as I.'
Mr. Darcy stepped closer to her, not in anger, but in eagerness; so that Elizabeth, engrossed with the apparent wrath of her words, did not notice his proximity.
She continued waspishly, 'It must have been such a shock when I refused you! And I assure you, Mr. Darcy, I would be willing to do it again. I am certain that nothing you can say will ever convince me to love -'
Elizabeth's sentence was suddenly cut off by a pair of lips pressed fervently to her own. All of her anger and frustration exploded inside her and she kissed him hungrily, pressing up against him, moving her hands up to his face, to his shoulders, to his hair; and she felt, with a strange feeling of triumph, his lips carassing hers in a way surely illegal, his hands settling themselves on her waist and then on her back, pulling her closer. She was too furious to think straight, but could not seem to pull back - ambivalence towards him, towards his actions, was so utterly confusing it was not worth broaching at the moment, and so she settled to endure his affections without complaint.
Finally they drew away from each other. Elizabeth's mouth was still parted slightly as she tried to say with composure, 'What did I do to warrant such an attack as this, Mr. Darcy?'
He smiled, blushed, and said, 'You cannot, surely, still be so oblivious of it?' She was about to speak when he interrupted: 'On second thought, Miss Bennet, I do not want to endure such assailment again. I will tell you. Despite your implications that I think, or have thought you inferior to myself, I have not. At times, I did think the opposite. You are surely my equal in wit and cleverness, and as for beauty -' He smiled teasingly. '- I am grossly inferior, I'm afraid. I have said it before, but I will say it again - I most dearly admire and love you, and, indeed, respect you above anyone I have ever known.' He paused to look into her eyes. 'Elizabeth, I know what you must think of me ...'
The use of her name, the sincerity of his manner, was enough to secure Elizabeth of her own feelings, and thus said: 'Mr. Darcy, I would be most displeased if you understood what I was feeling at the moment, for I wouldn't be so very complex if you did.'
'I believe then, that I should be hopeful of your returning my feelings?'
Elizabeth only smiled.
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Fun stuff, fun stuff. Please review, if you have the time! Muchos gracias, mes amie! Ciao!