Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I am unfortunately not that very talented author.
AN: I am writing this on a whim, to get this theme out of my head, as it is getting in the way of another story I am trying to write. This is unbeta'd, but I will do my very best to keep it readable and flowing, but I trust you, the readers to keep me on the right path-so please review. Oh… I will try to post at least weekly, but this is a work in progress.
Blame It On The Tea By Sadieo
Elizabeth woke in her room at Hunsford Parsonage with her mind still in a haze. The tea that Mrs. Hanson had given her the evening before was still causing her mind to be muddled. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind, she thought that she could recall a visitor… Mr. Darcy! Yes, I think I recall him being here, but for the life of me I do not recall what was said! Oh, I hope I did not embarrass myself, or say or do anything rash!
She made to sit up in the bed and felt a great soreness in her bottom and legs, and tried to get out of bed to work the feeling out, but to no avail. With her first few steps she felt an unusual tenderness in the place between her legs as she walked to the water basin to wash her face. Within a few minutes the young maid Margaret came to see her mistress' guest, and Elizabeth felt a need to have more than a cool basin to clean up with, and requested a bath be brought up for her.
Within twenty minutes the water was ready and she requested to be left alone to tend to herself. Removing her nightshift, Elizabeth felt some wetness and noticed blood on her thighs. Odd… my courses were almost two weeks ago. They should not be due for another two weeks! She thought no more about it and commenced to sit in the tub in order to clean herself up. The warm water helped to relieve some of her discomfort, though not entirely.
As she lay back against the edge of the tub, she tried to recall the events of last evening. What happened last night when Mr. Darcy visited, and how did I end up in my bed with my nightshift on? Perhaps Margaret or Mrs. Hanson helped to get me to bed after that man left? Trying to clear her mind of the fog that still enveloped her, Elizabeth had almost fallen asleep when Margaret came to check upon her, and help her to dress.
"Margaret… Do you recall how I managed to get into bed last night?"
The maid gave her a strange look as she answered, "No ma'am. I though' you ad got yerself ready las nigh."
"Why do I not recall it though?"
"Doknow, though I think tha you ad even went ta bed a' fore the gemen left, 'cause e let 'imself out. I 'couldn even say ow long e stayed, 'e was so quiet when 'e left!"
For a moment, Elizabeth pondered the information, but was still unable to piece the information together.
"I do not suppose that you have any idea how long he might have been here… or… or if there were any loud… discussions?"
The maid studied her for a moment before she answered, "Nooo ma'am, I 'and't 'eard a any arguing at tall, an usually we do hear 'bout stuff like that!" She assured her, then as an afterthought she added, "Though I migh say tha ya seemed to 'ave been a bit restless, 'cause you seemed ta be thrashin' 'bout in bed a bit an moanin', but after a bit ya seemed ta settle a bit. I checked on ya 'bout an hour er so after I heard ya in th room, and you were sound asleep."
"I see." Elizabeth was trying to put the pieces of last night together as Margaret was putting the finishing touches of her hair, when Charlotte came in to check up on her.
"How are you feeling this morning, Lizzy? I heard you slept rather ill at first last night."
"I think I am feeling a little better but I do not think that I shall be taking anymore of Mrs. Hanson's medicinal teas anytime soon. My mind is still in a fog, and I woke up rather sore this morning."
"Oh, well then I suppose you will not be taking your usual morning walk today then?"
"I… I do not know. Perhaps I may just postpone it until later. I may just rest after breakfast, and walk later in this afternoon."
"That sounds like a good idea. You look a bit peaked yet, and your father would not forgive me if you took ill while visiting me here."
"Oh Charlotte, I shall be fine. I am only a bit tired after yesterday, and I think I can credit the tea from last night for my current condition."
"Very well then Lizzy, but promise me that you shall take it easy until you leave us. If I send you back home in worse shape than you came, Mr. Bennet will likely not allow you to visit me again."
"I promise to take care, after all… I shudder to think of missing out on more of Lady Catherine's condescension."
The two friends laughed at Elizabeth's reference to Mr. Collins noble patroness, and as soon as she was ready they went downstairs to join the clergyman in breaking their fast. As promised, Elizabeth did rest for the remainder of the morning, and after lunch she felt improved enough to walk in the groves near the parsonage.
Rounding a corner in the groves, Elizabeth had almost literally run into Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"Oh, I am sorry for my clumsiness, Miss Elizabeth. Are you all right?"
"Yes colonel, I am fine, just a little embarrassed to have been caught woolgathering." She blushed as she greeted him properly. "I hope that you have survived my carelessness though?"
"Think nothing of it, ma'am. I am quite sure that you have many a good reason to be woolgathering now…" the colonel added jovially. "What with planning a wedding and all…"
Elizabeth looked at him thoroughly confused as she asked, "W-what wedding would that be sir?"
The colonel looked at her oddly for a moment, and then broke out in a wide smile, "Oh, I am sorry Miss Elizabeth…" he laughed as he pulled out a letter addressed to her, "My cousin took the liberty of informing me of your engagement this morning… just before he left for Meryton." He quickly added, "I hope that you do not mind that he made me privy to your betrothal? He only wished for me to deliver that letter to you, and of course I thought it rather singular of my proper cousin to do such a thing. He then proceeded to explain your circumstances, and I was more than happy to oblige him. Oh… and I promise not to tell a soul. You can both count on my discretion." He finished with a wink and a smile at her.
Oh dear Lord! What have I done? What happened last night at the parsonage to make Mr. Darcy think that we are engaged? Unless…? No… that cannot be! I would have remembered something as important as that! But then there was the tea Mrs. Hanson gave me and I cannot recall how I even managed to get into bed by myself. As her companion spoke, Elizabeth felt a cold sweat wash over her, and by the time he had finished with this piece of information, she felt very faint. When she said nothing more to him, the colonel again looked at her and became alarmed.
"Miss Elizabeth… are you quite well…?"
His voice seemed to be coming from far off, and she heard nothing more as darkness enveloped her. The next thing that Elizabeth remembered was waking up in her bed at the parsonage, with a very concerned looking Charlotte Collins, Maria Lucas, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and some elderly looking gentleman hovering over her.
Charlotte was sponging her forehead with a cool cloth, and she heard her say, "I think she is coming to, Mr. Robbins."
The elder man glanced up to her face as he held her arm by the wrist with his fingers. He spoke to her directly, "Good afternoon Miss Bennet. How do you feel?"
She looked to each one of the rooms occupants starting with her friend, and ending with the man she assumed was Mr. Robbins, "I-I… do not really know, sir. I do not know what came over me."
"What do you remember before you fainted, Miss Bennet? Did you feel… unusual at all…?"
"N-no." She paused for a moment until she remembered her headache yesterday, but before she could speak a word about it, both the colonel and Charlotte spoke up simultaneously.
"She had complained of a headache yesterday…" they gave each other a kindly smile, before looking back at her.
Charlotte spoke up again, "She took some drought last night as well and seemed rather out of sorts this morning, but I must confess I thought her much better after lunch."
"I see, so this was not necessarily something that just came on all of a sudden?"
"Well, I… felt well enough after lunch to go out walking and by then my headache was gone, and I feel fine now, sir. Perhaps it was just the heat and that I walked too much with the warmer weather?"
"Perhaps, Miss Bennet, but I think that you should rest for a couple of days, and no more long walks in the warm weather. Oh…" Mr. Robins looked at Charlotte, "Pray… what was it that your housekeeper gave Miss Bennet last night?"
"Uh… I am not exactly sure, but I shall go and get her and you can see for yourself what it was." Charlotte offered.
"Please." The physician requested.
Charlotte left the room quickly, leaving Elizabeth to ponder what had happened from last night on. She could not fathom being engaged to Mr. Darcy at all, yet the colonel insists that he told him that they were. Why would such a proud, arrogant, and wealthy gentleman want to marry me? He has only looked at me to see faults! No… no, there has to be some logical explanation! As soon as Elizabeth finished that thought, Charlotte arrived with Mrs. Hanson.
"Mr. Robbins, this is our housekeeper, Mrs. Hanson. She gave Lizzy some of this last night for her headache." She offered the bottle containing the minty smelling herb. The physician smelled it, and looked at the housekeeper.
"Mrs. Hansen… was this some form of mint from the garden?"
"Y-yes, sir. I use it often for such beastly headaches, but I must say nothin' like this 'as ever happened before."
"No doubt, but I think what you have here is a very potent amnesiac herb. If it is what I think it is, then it is no wonder Miss Bennet seemed out of sorts. A simple drop or two of opium would have been better, but what is done is done. For now, Miss Bennet I would prescribe some rest…" he looked towards Charlotte and the housekeeper then and said, "and absolutely no more of this at all."
"Yes sir." Both the housekeeper and Charlotte agreed.
"Well then, I propose that we all leave and let my patient rest."
They filed out of the room, but before the colonel left he approached Elizabeth with no little anxiety, "Miss Elizabeth… I am sorry if what I disclosed to you distressed you in any way. I assure you of my discretion, and I will not tell another soul until Darcy gets back from Longbourn. He would throttle me if anything happened to you while he was gone."
Elizabeth's eyes widened but she was unable to say anything. Her mind was still trying to grasp the fact that Mr. Darcy had somehow come to the conclusion that they were engaged after last night, yet she could remember none of their visit. She laid in bed trying to sort things out in her mind, but the more she thought about it the worse her head felt. What am I to do? Perhaps papa will turn him away and tell him 'no', but what if he does not? What will he tell papa? She continued to worry until the new drought that Mr. Robbins prescribed stated to take effect.
When Elizabeth finally awoke it was dark outside, and the parsonage was quiet. She managed to pull herself up to a sitting position and looked around the room trying to figure out what time it was. When her eyes cleared she could just make out that it was eleven o'clock. Focusing more on her surroundings, she saw a small try of food with some water and froze when she saw the letter underneath the serving tray. The letter from Mr. Darcy! Elizabeth stared at it for a moment before she reached over to retrieve it. Being naturally very curious she quickly broke the seal to read what he had written to her.
Saturday 8 April 1809,
My dearest Elizabeth,
Please forgive me for leaving so hastily both last night and this morning. I wanted to speak with your father as soon as may be, and return to you as quickly as possible. After our beautiful experience last night it was torture to pull myself away from you, however I did not wish to risk such a scandal that it would surely have caused were we to be discovered. I am sure you can understand that. When I left you at the parsonage my soul desperately ached for you, and I consol myself with the thought that we shall hopefully soon be together forever as husband and wife.
On another note, and after reading the above, I wish to convey my most sincere apologies for my ungentlemanly behavior as well. My only excuse can be my enthusiastic and undying love for you overrode my senses, and thus I acted so abominably. I also wish to let you know that I respect you just as much if not more than I had before- if that is possible. You are so beautiful, and how you responded to me last night made my heart soar, you have no idea. I always knew that you had such a passionate disposition, but to be the recipient of such is beyond compare the very best thing in the whole world.
That is the other reason for my leaving so early today. I fear that passion so much that I am not certain that I can control myself when it comes to you. This brings me to a most important point; I think it best under the circumstances if we marry sooner rather than later. The thought of the consequences to our actions begs me to ask you for your consent to wed sooner rather than later. I worry that to wait may put you in some jeopardy, and I love you too much for that.
I shall close with my assertions of my utter devotion to you, for now and forever.
Your devoted husband-to-be,
Elizabeth read through the letter several times to try and make sense of it all, and more importantly try to remember what happened last night. She continued to be befuddled as to his references to 'last night'. What did I do… and more importantly, what did we do? He seems to indicate a huge impropriety, but for the life of me I do not remember anything!
As Elizabeth read through the letter again, she was struck by the tender regard, and deep seeded feelings that he conveyed to her, and it struck her that this was a totally different side of the man she knew as Mr. Darcy. There were no words of hauteur, or arrogance, and he said that he loved her. Astounding! I cannot believe that a man such as he could feel such a way towards me! I thought that when he looked at me, he only did so for censure, but… was I wrong? And what about Mr. Wickham? How could this man act in such an abominable way to his father's favorite, and yet act so… so kind and loving towards a woman who can hardly oblige him?
The enigma that was Fitzwilliam Darcy continued to baffle Elizabeth until she finally found herself too exhausted to think anymore. Though her conscious thoughts of the mysterious, handsome man had faded, her dreams about the same individual were more vivid, and…realistic. She tossed and turned all night until dawn.
As Fitzwilliam Darcy tried to sleep Saturday night, the only thing he could think about was his beautiful Elizabeth lying in her bed. It was difficult to find slumber when he kept imagining her in his arms. He had always thought that she had a passionate nature, but tonight surpassed all of his expectations, and he did not want to give up his euphoria to the night yet. His dreams had never been so lovely, nor had he felt this way with any other woman, and soon she would be his wife.
It was that last thought that finally induced him into a restless slumber. Early tomorrow morning, he would ride out to Meryton by way through London in order to send a note to the Archbishop of Canterbury in application for a special license. From town he would ride on to Longbourn and meet with Mr. Bennet as soon as possible. He knew that that gentleman would likely not be made too happy by his precipitous application for his favorite daughter's hand, but it could not be helped.
His conscience bade him to feel some remorse for causing this need for hasty nuptials. If it had not been for his behavior they would have plenty of time for planning a decent wedding befitting the future Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, but now that was not to be. Their actions may have resulted in some far reaching consequences, and he did not want her to shoulder those repercussions herself-much less unmarried.
He resolved to ride out at first light, not only to take advantage of the daylight but also to avoid his aunt, Lady Catherine. She was usually one of the first people up in the household, and he most certainly did not wish to encounter her before he rode out. There is no way that I wish to explain to her where I am going, and I know that I cannot prevaricate very well… and I refuse to have Elizabeth exposed to my aunt's vitriol due to her disappointed hopes!
He thought about leaving Rosings and taking his beloved with him, but he knew that it would likely only make Mr. Bennet even more displeased with him. He will be angry enough if I have to explain why we must marry sooner rather than later. I shall have to get word to her somehow, though to let her know where I have gone. I do not want her to think I have seduced her with empty promises and then left her after second thoughts. Richard! I shall ask him to deliver a note to Elizabeth when he goes out walking! Darcy grimaced, thinking about sending his cousin off to meet up with his beloved fiancée. He had seen and heard how much Richard appreciated her beautiful eyes, and lovely womanly figure and her witty personality to the point of making him want to do his cousin serious injury.
She is mine now though and there is nothing that Richard or anyone else can do to change that! I shall have to tell him of our engagement, and swear him to secrecy. It would not do for him to go blabbing about my personal business to Anne or Lady Catherine. They would only make things more difficult for Elizabeth, and I will not stand for their rude, arrogant behavior towards her! No, I shall write her a note, and make one out to the archbishop and dispatch them as soon as may be, and hurry on to Longbourn. The sooner I get these things done, the sooner I can get back to her, and we can begin our life together.
Oh… I have to send a note to Georgiana as well! She must come down from Pemberley for our wedding, and maybe Richard can keep her at Matlock House with the earl and countess for a little while we become more acquainted. I am sure that she and Elizabeth will get along very well. Maybe they will even become as close as Elizabeth is with Miss Bennet are. But… what shall I do about Bingley? I do not wish to lose his friendship, yet I think it would be too soon for him to be in the company of Jane Bennet without being in danger. Perhaps we shall just have a quiet ceremony with only close family, and announce it as soon as we are married. Under the circumstances that seems more practical anyway.
Darcy finally exhausted himself thinking about all of the details necessary in getting married as soon as possible and feel asleep. By morning he was re-energized as he went about dressing for his early morning ride without the assistance of his valet, Mr. Holder. Before he left to go to the breakfast parlor, he had to deliver the note for Elizabeth to Richard.
As he knocked on the door he steeled himself for the onslaught of questions his nosy cousin was bound to pepper him with.
There was a faint and aggravated, "What", heard beyond the door, and Darcy entered stealthily.
Richard had barely opened his eyes and was trying to go back to sleep when he saw Darcy.
"Do not tell me you want my company for a ride this early in the morning Darcy. This is even early for you… or are you trying to avoid the she dragon?"
"Humph, no Richard I only came in to let you know that I must away to town today on some urgent business, but I will be back hopefully by tomorrow. I only came to ask a favor of you."
By now Richard was sitting up in his bed sleepily, but waking more each moment in concern.
"What do you need? Is it something to do with Georgiana…?"
"No! Lord no, she is fine..." Darcy shuttered at the thought of anything else happening to his sister after last summer, and thought of Wickham not only trying to make inroads with her, but then Elizabeth later on in the fall. He quickly made a mental note to tell Mr. Bennet to be careful where that rogue was concerned as well least he try something with Elizabeth's sisters.
"Well then… what is it?! What do you need me to do?" Richard asked impatiently.
"Oh…" Darcy snapped out of his private thoughts, "I need for you to deliver this note to Miss Bennet today… as soon as you can. Will you do that for me?"
Richard stared disbelievingly at him for a moment before slowly answering, "All right… but may I ask why my usually stoic, reserved, and proper cousin is writing a note to the very lovely Miss Elizabeth? I mean… you have to admit that it smacks of impropriety, Darcy. What will she think?"
"Do not get yourself worked up Richard. When I left here last night, I went to the parsonage…" Richard raised his eyebrow to signal his interest in the subject, and Darcy continued, "And I asked Miss Bennet to marry me."
Richard jumped out of bed and clapped Darcy on the back, "That is marvelous news, Darcy! You are a lucky man, I hope you know… and you have great taste. Why… if I were in your position, I would have jumped at the first chance I had to propose to her."
Darcy frowned at his cousin's choice of words, still feeling insecure about his cousin's easy relaxed manners with Elizabeth, but consoling himself with thoughts of last night.
"Well it is a good thing for me then, that you are not!" He said a little roughly, then his voice softened a little, "And I cannot agree with you more as to my luck. Elizabeth is everything that I would ever want in my wife and companion of my life, and I am a most fortunate man."
"I should say so, but what shall the she devil and Anne say when they find out that you are engaged, and it is not to Anne?"
"They will not be finding out, Richard, because you will not say a word until the deed is done, then they can do nothing about it! Besides… you and the rest of our family have known for as long as Lady Catherine has been proclaiming it, that I am not, nor have I ever been, engaged to Anne. That is just our aunt's delusional thinking, and please do not mention where I am going to her either. I will deliver my request for a special license when I go through town, and then head on to Elizabeth's family's estate, Longbourn to formally request her hand from Mr. Bennet. I do not wish to be away from her for more than a day if I can help it."
"Ah… well then, consider it done, cousin. You can count on me to keep things under control in your steed. I shall make sure that your fiancée is in good hands while you are away. Oh… and make sure that you do not injure yourself while you are away... The ladies in town would be so disappointed should I have to take Miss Elizabeth as my bride instead of you."
He gave Darcy a cheeky grin, to which Darcy's jaw tightened as he glared back at his cousin. "Do not even joke about that Richard!" He left Richard in his room laughing at his sudden serious demeanor. By G-d I shall be very careful on my journey! It would not do to have Elizabeth put at risk for the censure of all society, or worse… having to marry my cousin for protection! The thought was enough to make him shutter.
Before he broke his fast, he called for the footman to have his horse readied, and sat at the vacant table in the breakfast parlor where the ever efficient staff already had some repast set out. Good, I am starved after my exercise last night! He ate with gusto quenching his ravenous appetite, and surprised some of the kitchen staff who had only seen him eat in moderate portions before this morning. As soon as he was done he set out for the stables, and was quickly on his way to town.
He briefly thought of stopping by the parsonage before he left Hunsford, but reconsidered thinking that Elizabeth may still be abed and very tired after last night. There was also the added risk of raising Mr. Collins, and under no circumstances did he want to raise his suspicions. He would be the first to run to Lady Catherine and tell her about my early morning visit to Elizabeth! I will be back quickly enough… maybe even tonight, and … no I could not see her after I get back! I will likely not be fit to be seen after all of this riding, and I would not even have enough energy to properly greet her.
Darcy continued to think through what he wanted to say to Mr. Bennet, and how he was going to convey the need for a hasty wedding. He knew that he did not wish to confess to his beloved's father that he had taken liberties with Elizabeth. No… that would only make him angry, and what if he says 'no' just because of that? I shall not mention it unless absolutely necessary, but I shall not lie to him either. He deserves the truth, and while I am at it, I should let him know that George Wickham is not a man to be trusted either. The last thing Darcy wanted to think about was that waste of a man.
It had been nearly eight months since the Ramsgate fiasco and Georgiana was nowhere near her normal self yet. I am sure that when Elizabeth and I are married they will grow as close as she and Jane are, and hopefully it will help to have a woman closer to Georgiana's age to relate to. Lord knows I have no idea how else to get through to her. I should have killed that blackguard when I had the chance, then he would not be able to impose himself on anyone else again!
Darcy found it difficult even now to erase the image of George Wickham standing next to Elizabeth in the street at Meryton. The moment he saw them together he wanted to dismount off his horse and throttle him, but restrained himself for the sake of Elizabeth's sensibilities. As soon as they announced their engagement, Darcy vowed to ensure that Wickham was not allowed anywhere near Elizabeth ever again. Knowing George, he would likely try to use his engaging manners to manipulate her into helping him… or worse. Darcy's mood blackened as he thought about his past with George, and he traveled onward to town trying to exorcize those ghosts from years past.
I shall have a new beginning with her though, and let the past go. We will make happy memories and forget about all of our pain. Darcy arrived in town around lunchtime and managed to eat quickly and change into a new outfit at his home before he headed to Longbourn. By noon he was on the road to Meryton and his destiny.
By the time he arrived at Longbourn it was almost four o'clock in the afternoon, and he had cleaned up at Netherfield before calling upon Mr. Bennet. As he rode up the drive he could make out three faces staring through the window at him. No doubt Mrs. Bennet and the two youngest girls! I am thankful that Elizabeth will soon be away from here and living with me at Pemberley. We could not be far enough away from her family for my tastes… well… maybe Mr. and Miss Bennet are all right, but the others! He involuntarily shook his head at the thought of her other relations, thankful that he was able to pry Bingley away from Netherfield before he made a huge mistake. He handed his card to the housekeeper and requested a private audience with Mr. Bennet.
Within a few minutes, the same woman was showing him to the library and announced him.
"Mr. Darcy to see you, Mr. Bennet, sir."
The elder gentleman rose from his desk near the hearth and welcomed him, "Mr. Darcy… It is a surprise to see you, of all people here. Pray… is Mr. Bingley come back to Netherfield?" He looked past Darcy towards the door as if expecting another visitor as well, and Darcy donned his usual stoic and impenetrable mask.
"Ah… no, sir. I have come alone, and as far as I know Mr. Bingley is still in town." Not that I could easily decipher what he is doing based on his writing skills.
A surprised looked passed over Mr. Bennet's face "Well then… what can I do for you, Mr. Darcy? Oh… can I interest you in anything to drink?" He held up a canter of brandy.
Darcy advanced into the room, "No… thank you. I have actually come to make a personal request, sir."
"Yes, sir. I have come from Hunsford… Rosings Park actually… and wanted to talk to you about your daughter…"
Mr. Bennet turned to him with an alarmed look upon his face, "Is there something wrong with my Lizzy? Is she well?"
"Ah, yes, she was well when I last saw her…" Even better judging from her reaction to me, but I will damned to admit it to you! "Mr. Bennet, what I want to ask of you is your permission to marry your daughter, Elizabeth."
The old man's face paled as he looked at Darcy, and he sat down heavily on his chair behind his desk.
"W-what did you say?"
Darcy was beginning to wonder if Elizabeth's father was actually somewhat deaf. It would not be hard to imagine wishing to be in this household, he thought to himself, but recalled the conversation at hand.
"Sir," he began a little louder, "I am asking your consent to marry your daughter, Elizabeth."
"No need to shout, sir, I heard you the first time, I simply cannot fathom how it is you have come here to make such a request… and for my Lizzy, of all my girls!"
"Mr. Bennet… I assure you that I know of what I am speaking, and it is your daughter, Elizabeth that I wish to wed. I have only come here to gain your consent… and, ask for us to be able to wed within the month."
Again the older man looked at him with such an expression of fright, "But… but how… why…? What has happened to bring this sudden engagement about? The last time I spoke to her, she acted as though she thought…" His thought died upon his lips, as the two men stared at each other.
"Sir, I assure you that your daughter and I have formed an attachment, and she has agreed to be my wife. In fact, we had only spoken of it last night…"
"Is that so?" He asked skeptically.
"It is, and we… or rather I wish to marry within a fortnight if possible. It will soon be planting season, and I need to be back at my estate in Derbyshire beforehand, and… I had hoped to bring Elizabeth home with me then." Well… it is not technically a lie; planting season is coming on soon. No need to let Mr. Bennet know we have need to marry sooner for another reason.
Mr. Bennet sat in his chair staring at him, as if he thought he was mad.
"Mr. Darcy forgive me for being so shocked. It is just that when my Lizzy left here, she had not indicated any preference for you… or any man for that matter. You can have no doubt as to how… surprising this news is to me considering."
"It is understandable, sir, and I assure you that it has come as a surprise to me as well, but I assure you that last night your daughter Elizabeth made me the happiest of men by accepting my hand in marriage, and now I have come to ask you for her hand as well."
The room was silent for a minute before the master of Longbourn spoke again, "Forgive my hesitancy in granting your request, but it is such a… a… surprise. You must understand my reluctance to grant this without first speaking to Lizzy… and in any case I think that a fortnight is simply… well…" he frowned, "out of the question."
Darcy felt himself breaking out into a cold sweat, not wishing to have to give any more of an explanation to Elizabeth's father for their seemingly impulsive need to wed, but in a split second he decided that it may be the lesser of the two evils.
"Um… Mr. Bennet… I… uh… would beg of you to reconsider- not that I have any objection to you speaking with your daughter, it is just that… it may not be in everyone's best interests to… wait very long." He finished softly.
Mr. Bennet sat straight up in his chair while staring incredulously at him.
"What is that supposed to mean, Mister Darcy?"
Darcy recognized an angry father when he saw, or in this case, heard one as well. He did not begrudge him under the circumstance either. In fact it was probably akin to how he felt towards Wickham when he discovered the truth about his and Georgiana's plans to elope, but it did not make it any easier for him at the moment.
He looked contritely at Mr. Bennet and said as levelly as he could muster, "It means that it would not be in her best interests to wait for very long, sir."
"Am I to understand that there is an urgent reason for such urgency then…sir?"
"Not urgent, exactly, but a good reason to expedite the process."
"What happened between you and my daughter, exactly, Mr. Darcy?"
By now the tension in the room was palpable, and Darcy by no means wanted to anger the man any further, but he knew that the time for reckoning was here.
"Some things that should not have, but they are done now and I wish to rectify the situation as soon as may be."
The sudden sound of Mr. Bennet's hand hitting the desk top reverberated around the room, and actually startled Darcy, but he held his ground, and looked squarely at Elizabeth's father. By now the man looked as if he could fly across his desk and throttle him, but his glare spoke volumes.
"I will ask you this once, sir, and by G-d you had better answer me truthfully, did you force yourself upon my daughter?"
"No! I did not ravage her, if that is what you are asking, sir." Darcy answered defensively.
"I cannot believe that my daughter, Lizzy, would behave in such a way, or… allow any such liberties! The only explanation would be for her to have been out of her senses to act in such a way!"
"Mr. Bennet, I assure you that I did not coerce or drug Elizabeth. I love and respect her too much to dishonor her like that!" He said defensively.
"Love and honor? How can a man behave in such a way towards a maiden, and say that he loves and honors her?"
"Sir… it was neither intended nor planned. It happened when we let our emotions cloud our good judgment, but now that it has happened we must do our best to protect Elizabeth. I also wish to add that I am not in the habit of behaving in such a way, and you may ask anyone in town about my reputation. It is impeccable, but I can understand if you have your doubts right now."
He heard a snort coming from the elder gentleman, but proceeded on, "Elizabeth is the only woman I have ever wanted to wholly share myself with, and I wish that I could take it back and give her everything that she deserves, and I will try to make it up to her. You must understand that this is not just for me but for her as well."
Mr. Bennet sat back again in his chair and suddenly looked very old. Darcy understood, and prayed that he would consent if not for him then at least for his most beloved daughter's sake.
"Well… it seems that I have no choice but to consent to my daughter's marrying you, though my blessing has yet to be seen. I still wish to talk with Lizzy before a date is set, and I can only hope and pray that you understand what a treasure you have found yourself Mr. Darcy, because if you do not then you will live to regret it!"
"I do know what a treasure she is, sir, that is why I chose her. As far as the date is concerned… I will leave it for you and your daughter determine."
"How very gracious of you." Mr. Bennet replied sarcastically.
The two gentlemen sat across from Mr. Bennet's desk looking at each other thoughtfully for another couple of minutes, before getting down to the business of the marriage contracts, and settlements, ending with a promise to have their attorneys review their agreements and make further suggestions to the final documents. They had agreed that they would meet in town by the end of next week to review said documents, and so long as everything was in order they would be signed. Mr. Bennet also requested that Darcy deliver a letter from him to Elizabeth upon his return to Rosings Park, which Darcy promised to deliver.
He knew that his last request to Mr. Bennet may be justly denied, but he asked anyway, "I know this may sound selfish under the circumstances, but would it be possible for me to bring Miss Elizabeth along with her traveling companion back to town in my carriage? I hate to think of her having to travel via post with strangers, and my coach is always well guarded… plus I will be traveling with a colonel in the regulars."
"Is that supposed to make me feel any better about it, Mr. Darcy?" Mr. Bennet asked dryly.
Darcy had the good grace to blush before he answered, "Not particularly, but I felt you should know whom I would be traveling with, and the man in question happens to be my cousin, so I can assure you that he will not be acting inappropriately towards your daughter… or anyone else's if I can help it."
Mr. Bennet gave a slight smile for the first time that afternoon, "I think then, that I may be able to trust you in a carriage with two other people, and perhaps another escort of my choosing. My brother Gardiner had already offered to send one of his men to escort Elizabeth and Maria Lucas to town…"
"Then he shall join us as well, if that is what you would prefer."
"It is what I would prefer."
"Very good then. I will leave you with my card from town and my other card from Pemberley should you need to get in touch with me for any reason, my staff know how to contact me."
"Until later then."
"I look forward to it, Mr. Bennet."
Darcy left Longbourn and mounted his steed headed back to town. It was nearing six o'clock and he knew that he would not make it to Rosings until tomorrow. He was already too tired from the heated discussions and haggling with Mr. Bennet to ride all night. Remembering the comment from Richard about pursuing Elizabeth 'should anything happen to him' also cooled his enthusiasm as well. Lady Catherine will be furious with me for traveling on a Sunday, but I will not spend another moment away from Elizabeth if it can be helped.
It was ten o'clock that evening when Darcy arrived exhausted, faint, and hungry at his house in town. As soon as the housekeeper, Mrs. Jones, saw him she gave him a large glass of water and ordered him up to his bath and a meal was sent to his rooms. The older woman had her husband, who was also the Darcy house butler, tend to the master personally. By eleven that evening Darcy had bathed, eaten and almost literally fallen into bed.