Passion & Propriety
Fitzwilliam Darcy has always acted on his passions within the bounds of propriety, but what if that was changed, ever so slightly?
A/N: (Sorry – I turned off the "accepting anonymous reviews" feature; if you're talking to me, I want to talk back).
What stubbornness! How could a woman be so wholly unreasonable? Can she not understand the importance of what I need to tell her?
These were the thoughts of Fitzwilliam Darcy as he paced angrily in his room at Rosings. Not only had Miss Elizabeth Bennet refused his offer of marriage—totally unthinkable!—but now had refused to read the letter he had written her. And! AND! Not only refused once, but twice!
Had she no regard of the great effort he had taken in writing it? How could a woman from a family of such low standing refuse him and his explanation? And—this was the deepest cut—how could she give credence to the word of, oh, must he even think the name, George Wickham? That man who never looked at a woman without thinking of her in an immoral way – how could she?
Miss Bennet had shown herself to have an excellent mind; no one could doubt that. That she refused the offer that insipid Mr. Collins had made to her showed she had some discernment in judging others' character. But was she so naïve that she would allow herself to be prey to Wickham's self-serving pursuits, whatever they may be?
The thought of Wickham being anywhere near her, having any sway over her – this was abominable! He had to make her understand. He could not quit Rosings without Elizabeth Bennet reading his letter of explanation. One more day's delay was all he could afford. It would be tomorrow … or never.
Elizabeth Bennet knew she needed to be careful. The insufferable man! Twice on her walks had Mr. Darcy tried to hand her a letter, but she refused. She needed to hear neither his further attempts for her hand, nor any pitiful explanations he may tender. No, she knew all she needed to know in regards to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his haughty, arrogant manners. She had been advised he was soon to depart Rosings and wished he would. Perhaps—oh, please let it be so—he was already making his way to London and she would be rid of the spectre of his presence, never to see him again. Any future visits to Hunsford would be planned for when Mr. Darcy would not be visiting.
And so it was that Elizabeth set off on her walk in a direction unfamiliar to her, and, hence, should be unfamiliar to anyone else as well. Making her way through partially cultivated grounds, she soon found herself walking through a copse of trees, enjoying the scent of the flora and the songs of the birds around her.
She was so enjoying the solitude of her newly discovered woodland, she allowed herself to feel completely at ease. Coming upon a large mound of boulders, she found herself wishing she had not worn as nice a dress; otherwise, she would have been climbing atop to view the countryside.
As she walked around her little mountain, she thought she may have heard something amiss, but quickly dismissed it. When almost complete in her circumference, her mind in several different directions, she looked up to see standing before her Mr. Darcy himself, his horse behind him.
Her gasp at seeing him staring at her with the intensity in his eyes that was all too familiar to her was the only sound she could make. They both stood frozen as she calmed her breathing.
"Sir," was her only greeting, her eyes not wavering from his.
"Miss Bennet," he said in reply, taking the first steps. When she took a step away, he put his hand out in front of him.
"Miss Bennet, please," he reiterated, "you have refused to read my letter …"
"Yes, Mr. Darcy, that is correct, and I plan to continue doing so." She said this stopping as he had stepped to block her path. "Now if you will excuse me, Sir." She made way to step around him, but he again blocked her.
"Miss Bennet, please," he said, taking another step toward her as she stepped back, "you must understand that there is much you need to be aware of." He reached into his pocket, producing the letter. "This will explain everything; it is for your own enlightenment."
Her outrage was building as she addressed him. "Mr. Darcy, there is nothing that will ever cause me to read your letter, nor accept any correspondence with you." She said this with all the vehemence she could muster while maintaining civility. "Now, Sir, please, detain me no further." With that she made another attempt to walk by him.
Elizabeth took one step and then was lifted off the ground. Darcy's arms were about her setting her on his horse as he then situated himself behind her and within moments, he had flicked the reins and they were quickly off.
Once Elizabeth's lungs finally had air, she vented with full force. "Mr. Darcy, I demand you let me go at once!" She struggled to free her arms, but his hold on her would not allow much movement.
"Miss Bennet, no harm will come to you, but you must not fight me. Please stay still." His voice was adamant, almost with desperation as he realized if she continued to struggle, his hold on her would become tenuous.
As he seemed determined, Elizabeth quickly looked about to see if she could call for help, but there was no one that she could see. She changed her tactics.
"Please, Mr. Darcy, I will read your letter, only, please, I beg you, put me down."
He didn't answer right away, in spite of her continued "please, sir's". They were going farther and farther from where she was familiar and wondered if she would ever be able to find her way back to the parsonage once she had escaped (that was her hope).
"Where are you taking me?" She asked, by this time not bothering to hide the fear she felt.
With a surprisingly consoling tone, Darcy answered her, "We are almost there. You do not need to be afraid, Miss Bennet; as I said, no harm will come to you."
He was slowing his horse down as they approached a small orchard. Making their way through the rows, Elizabeth's breath caught as they came to a small cottage in the middle.
"No," she gasped. Absently, her struggles to free herself from Mr. Darcy's hold renewed with a great, frantic effort. "Please, don't do this!" she cried. "Please, I beg you, don't do this!"
Darcy was thankful they were already there, as he was not sure he could have restrained her further when they were still at a gallop. Now that they were stopped, he grabbed both of her wrists and held them close against her chest. "Miss Bennet, please calm yourself. I assure you, you are in no danger of any harm."
Maintaining his hold, Darcy dismounted bringing Elizabeth with him. Making their way to the door of the cottage, she tried digging her feet into the ground, but Darcy merely lifted her up, setting her feet down only at the front door as he reached for the key. Once acquired, he unlocked the door, lifted Elizabeth once again and set her inside as he secured the door behind him.
Quickly looking around her, Elizabeth saw this to be a one-room cottage with a small kitchen and dining area, sitting area, and behind a curtain, a bed. There were windows but she could only determine there to be one door and Mr. Darcy stood in front of it.
She suddenly felt very small as she considered how intimidating his presence was. Yet, the intense look that had greeted her initially that morning was replaced by one of a much gentler nature. She was confused, but then quickly thought she may be able to make her escape.
She relaxed her stance and took a step toward the dinner table that sat next to a window. Realizing she had her captor's full attention she reached to idly brush her hand across the back of one of the chairs.
"Where are we, Sir?" She tried to sound nonchalant.
Taking a small step toward her, he replied, "This is the plum cottage where the Turner's once lived." He paused as they both surveyed the room, although Elizabeth kept her hand on the back of the chair. "They were known for the best plums and plum jellies in Kent. Unfortunately, due to their health, they could not continue living here and now live with their son in Surrey. Richard and I came to look over its clean up when …"
Elizabeth had taken the chair she'd kept hold of and was now making an attempt to smash the window nearest her. Darcy had seen through her ploy and was able to subdue her, restraining her once again, holding her to his chest with his hands firmly restraining her wrists in front of her.
"Please, don't do this!" She once again begged. "Just let me go, I beg you, Sir." Her pleadings had quickly become disconsolate as she realized the futility of her attempt.
Darcy continued to hold her as she cried in front of him, but his hold changed from one of purely restraint to one of cradling. "Miss Bennet, please, while I realize my actions are extreme, I assure you, there is no harm intended whatsoever." Her cries quieted to a whimper as he backed up until he was sitting in the only comfortable chair in the sitting area with Elizabeth sitting between his legs causing her to renew her efforts.
"Why have you brought me here then? I beg you, please let me go."
Darcy shifted so that one hand maintained hold of both of Elizabeth's against her chest while he reached inside his coat and withdrew the letter once again.
"Miss Bennet, as you would not read the letter I have written, I will take it upon myself to read it to you," he said with a command in his voice that would brook no argument. Elizabeth was still for a moment.
"And then you will let me go?" She asked quietly.
She could feel his lips on her ear as he replied. "You have my word."
At this, she relaxed, but Darcy would not release his hold. He did allow her to bring her hands down to her lap, although he kept one arm around her as he began to read.
"Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you."
He stopped. "You understand I wrote this the day after…"
"Yes, sir, I am mindful of that," she answered distractedly. "You may continue."
"I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes, which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten; and the effort which the formation and the perusal of this letter must occasion should have been spared, had not my character required it to be written and read. You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice."
"I regret" he interjected, "that I have used such forceful means to demand your attention, Miss Bennet, but it seemed to be unavoidable."
Elizabeth's ire was rising and with that, she shifted, which Darcy interpreted as another escape attempt causing him to tighten his grasp once again. She quickly ceased her movements. "Please continue sir."
"Two offences of a very different nature, and by no means of equal magnitude, you last night laid to my charge. The first mentioned was, that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had detached Mr. Bingley from your sister; -"
"And you dare to excuse your actions now, Sir?" She was fighting for release again but Darcy's hold was firm. "Yes, Miss Bennet, I do and if you will settle yourself you will hear it all that much sooner." Elizabeth settled with a sigh.
"and the other, that I had, in defiance of various claims, in defiance of honour and humanity, ruined the immediate prosperity, and blasted the prospects of Mr. Wickham."
"You cannot even say his name without tensing in your jaw, Sir." She turned to look at him fiercely.
"You will understand the reason for that if you will allow me to continue," he said through clenched teeth.
"Very well," she shrugged, "continue."
After reading a few more words regarding Wickham, Darcy read to her his observations of Hertfordshire and the growing attachment he had witnessed between Bingley and Jane and Jane's seeming indifference.
"If you have not been mistaken here, I must have been in an error. Your superior knowledge of your sister must make the latter probable. - If it be so, if I have been misled by such error, to inflict pain on her, your resentment has not been unreasonable."
He stopped when Elizabeth turned a glaring eye at him.
"I do regret, Miss Bennet, any pain I have caused your sister. You must believe me on that and that I shall do all I can to rectify my error."
Elizabeth turned back away from him with Darcy responding with a renewed grip around her. His words following caused Elizabeth great unease as he put forth his scrutiny of her family's behaviour. He paused as he noticed her head hanging looking down at her hands trapped in front of her. The thought of releasing her crossed his mind but he needed her to hear the entire letter. He concluded in discussing Bingley by narrating the events in London during the winter.
"If I have wounded your sister's feelings, it was unknowingly done; and though the motives which governed me may to you very naturally appear insufficient, I have not yet learnt to condemn them."
"I'm sure that enables you to sleep at night." Elizabeth was looking straight forward as she said this. Darcy only glanced at her before continuing.
"With respect to that other, more weighty accusation, of having injured Mr. Wickham, I can only refute it by laying before you the whole of his connection with my family."
Elizabeth listened with more attention, as what he related was a total revelation to her. She noted that, while Darcy had read his words previously with clarity and assuredness, he now read in shorter bursts with greater pauses between words. When he finally stopped altogether after reading, "she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement," Elizabeth turned to view him.
Darcy had dropped his head; the letter hanging from his hand, he looked like a man in utter despair. She turned her body, but Darcy reacted with another enforced grip about her. Though her arms were trapped, however, she was able to move her hands.
Placing one hand on his hand that held her against him, she gave it a light stroke. Her gentle touch caused him to look up at her and see that her other hand was reaching for the letter. Very gingerly she took the letter from him. He allowed her to free both her arms, but he kept his one arm around her waist as she began to read.
"She was but fifteen" she read and stopped, looking at Darcy. With his head still downcast, he was fighting for control. As she continued reading, she felt his other arm reach across her as well as he laid his head against the back of her shoulder in an act of seeking comfort. Occasionally she felt his face pressed against her before resting his head again.
She felt him breathe a sigh of relief as she read, "This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which we have been concerned together…" and noticed his grasp on her lessening. By the time she read, "I shall endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you. Fitzwilliam Darcy," his hands were resting on his legs, no encumbrance to her whatever.
Still holding the letter in her hand, Elizabeth slowly rose from the chair taking two steps away from Darcy as she turned to face him, folding the letter as she did.
"It turned out to be quite the endeavour to put this in my hand after all," she said, trying to lighten the mood. The barest of smiles touched her lips as she looked down on him.
Darcy rose, unfolding his long frame from the chair and stepped toward her. Taking his handkerchief from his pocket, he reached up to her eyes dotting any remaining moisture left from her previous tears.
"I hope I did not hurt you," a fleeting look from her assured him he hadn't, "and I truly regret causing you any fear or discomfort." She looked away. "But the thought of your being subject to Wickham's deceit…" his pause as he struggled caused Elizabeth to look up, "I could not bear it." He studied her face. "Do you understand?"
Her scant nod was indicative of her feelings. "You will understand if I am not able to say thank you." Darcy grimaced. "Perhaps, after reflection on your words, Sir, that may occur." His nod was given with greater sentiment.
After a further moment, Darcy offered, "I will see you back to the parsonage now." Elizabeth nodded as he made his way to the door and opened it for her. After securing the door, he led her to his horse. There was an awkward moment as she regarded the situation.
"Are you expecting me to ride alone, Sir?"
His look was perplexed. "Is there any difficulty in that, Miss Bennet?"
Her concern was mounting. "I am not comfortable riding, Sir," she said apologetically.
In contrast to his previous actions, Darcy was now re-establishing his gentlemanly ways in front of Elizabeth and was loathe breaching propriety again.
"Miss Bennet, would you allow me to ride with you until we arrive where we first met this morning? I do not believe we shall be witnessed by anyone, but if we are, I shall ensure your reputation does not suffer as a result." The intensity in his eyes had returned, but Elizabeth's reaction was quite the opposite now.
"I think that will be fine, Mr. Darcy. Thank you." With that, he reached over and lifted her onto the saddle, climbing up behind her and slipped his arm about her waist.
As they rode at a much more relaxed pace than before, they spoke in a much more comfortable manner.
"Am I to understand you leave for London presently?"
"Yes," he said, "once I have seen you safely back to the Collinses, Richard and I shall quit Rosings."
There was silence before he continued. "When do you return to Hertfordshire?"
"In a week," she replied, "but I shall first be to London, as well, to collect Jane, before returning to Herfordshire."
"Ah," Darcy responded. "How long shall you stay in London then?"
"Only a few days," Elizabeth responded. She was now resting comfortably against Darcy's chest and found she was enjoying the sensation.
"And you are staying at your uncle's on Gracechurch Street then?"
A sly smile spread across Elizabeth's face. "Yes, that is correct. You surprise me that you remember it."
"I would like to surprise you quite often, Miss Bennet," he said in a very low voice.
She said nothing as she contemplated his meaning.
When they arrived at their destination, Darcy helped Elizabeth down. Standing before her, he reiterated his previous sentiments.
"I am sorry for the extreme measures I have taken with you and do hope that one day you will forgive me."
"I do understand why your actions were so drastic," was all she said, although with a smile.
"Would you allow me to call on you while you are in London, Miss Bennet?"
"I'm sure that would be fine, Mr. Darcy. I would look forward to it very much."
"Then until we meet again, Miss Bennet," he took her hand and bent low over it, placing a soft kiss on it, "good day to you."
"Good day to you as well, Mr. Darcy, and pleasant travels."
He was reluctant to go and leave Elizabeth there. His only consolation was that he would see her again soon. That too, was Elizabeth's only consolation.