Summary: The day of the Hunsford proposal is repeated over and over, Groundhog Day style; from Elizabeth's POV. This OOC story begins after the disastrous Hunsford proposal.
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Jane Austen.
Chapter 1: Post Proposal
Thursday, April 9, 1812
["The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half-an-hour."] ["She continued in very agitated reflections till the sound of Lady Catherine's carriage made her feel how unequal she was to encounter Charlotte's observation, and hurried her away to her room."] (P&P, Chapter 34)
["Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at length closed her eyes. She could not yet recover from the surprise of what had happened; it was impossible to think of anything else; and, totally indisposed for employment, she resolved soon after breakfast, to indulge herself in air and exercise."] (P&P, Chapter 35)
Elizabeth took great care to avoid the same paths that she had previously walked with Mr. Darcy; she did not want to encounter him so soon after his insulting proposal. "My condition in life is so decidedly beneath his," she muttered under her breath, still feeling the anger swirl around her like a storm. She was determined to put the whole episode behind her. Gazing up ahead of her, she was pleased to discover Colonel Fitzwilliam walking on the path toward her, similar to their encounter the day before.
"Good morning, Colonel Fitzwilliam! I thought you had completed your tour of the park yesterday," she told him with a smile.
He smiled in his amiable manner. "No, I have not toured this area of the park as yet. May I join you?" he asked. She was puzzled by this response but quickly agreed and they continued on the path. She wondered if he was aware that that she had rejected Mr. Darcy's proposal. "Is your cousin not walking this morning?" she asked him.
"No, Darcy is occupied with Rosings estate business," he told her. "We leave for London on Saturday and must complete our annual review by then," he told her.
She was unsure why he was repeating their travel plans that they just discussed yesterday. "Yes, I know that you are at your cousin's disposal," she told him, repeating his earlier comment.
"Yes, that is quite true; as younger son I am accustomed to self-denial and dependence," he replied.
She had previously thought the Colonel to be a proficient conversationalist but he was now repeating the same conversation from the previous day. "What could he mean by it?" she wondered. Not wishing to discuss his cousin any further, she changed the subject: "Do the grounds meet with your approval, Colonel?" she asked.
"Oh yes, very much so; they are cared for most diligently by the Rosings staff," he replied. "The grounds of Pemberley are even more beautiful," he observed. "I hope that you may one day have the opportunity to tour them yourself," he said with a smile.
"When should I ever have the opportunity or inclination to tour the grounds of Pemberley?" she wondered. After her angry rejection of Mr. Darcy's proposal, she doubted that he would ever desire to be in her company again; nor did she wish to be in his company. "This rose garden is my favorite," she told him as they came upon a fragrant garden. "It reminds me of the rose garden at Longbourn," she observed, attempting to change the subject.
"Then you certainly must tour Pemberley," he insisted. "There are several rose gardens, each designed by my late Aunt Darcy. My cousin is extraordinarily proud of them," he said with a smile.
"Yes, there is no doubt that Mr. Darcy is extraordinarily proud," she thought with contempt. "Why does he continue to insert Mr. Darcy into our conversation?" she wondered. "Does he mean to improve my low opinion of his cousin?" "Mr. Collins is similarly proud of his gardens, Colonel. Shall we tour them as well?" she suggested as they arrived at the parsonage. Much to her relief, Mr. Collins eagerly emerged from the front door and welcomed his distinguished visitor to his humble abode. "Colonel Fitzwilliam has come to admire your gardens, Mr. Collins," she told him, to which he began a lengthy apology for the inferiority of his humble gardens compared to the magnificent gardens of Rosings. Elizabeth had never been so relieved to hear the pointless ramblings of the obsequious parson as she was at that moment; he had inadvertently rescued her from a most awkward encounter with the Colonel.
Once their distinguished guest had taken his leave, Elizabeth returned to her chamber to contemplate her morning encounter. Of course the Colonel must be loyal to his cousin, she realized. Mr. Darcy's inner circle enjoyed his protection and they in turn repaid him with their loyalty. Mr. Darcy must have confided in the Colonel; perhaps he even sent him out to meet her in the park to observe her reaction to his proposal.
Later that afternoon, Collins advised Elizabeth that Lady Catherine had graciously extended an invitation to Rosings for tea. She was hesitant to decline the invitation again; besides not wanting to offend Lady Catherine by declining a second time in as many days, she wanted to avoid any potential questions that might be raised by her absence. Secure in the knowledge that Mr. Darcy would be leaving in the morning, she concluded that one final afternoon in his company should not be too much of a hardship.
When her party first arrived at Rosings, Elizabeth was relieved that Mr. Darcy was not in attendance; however, her relief was short-lived when he and the Colonel entered the sitting parlor. Mr. Darcy gazed at her with his usual disapproving glare. "Is this Mr. Darcy's way of showing affection?" she wondered.
"Darcy and Fitzwilliam, there you are!" the Lady exclaimed. "Darcy, you must come sit by Anne! She has been waiting most patiently for you," she suggested, to Elizabeth's great relief. He seemed uncomfortable with this suggestion but complied without argument, sitting next to his timid cousin. Elizabeth noticed that his arrogant and conceited demeanor did not surface while in the presence of his family; why would he behave so with her?- she wondered. She kept her eyes on the Colonel, refusing to glance in Mr. Darcy's direction. "How is your review of Rosings progressing, Darcy?" asked the Lady.
"We have completed our review and are pleased to report that the accounts appear to be in order," Darcy told his aunt. "We have submitted our recommendations for estate improvements to your steward," he said.
"How fortunate we are to have the expertise of two such knowledgeable men, are we not Anne?" the Lady praised them, with Darcy as the obvious target of her praise. Anne hung her head in response. "We shall be devastated to lose your company on Saturday; however, we console ourselves that we have one more day to avail ourselves of your company."
Elizabeth smiled in amusement of her Ladyship's error. "You certainly shall be devastated to learn that today is in fact Friday and the gentlemen shall be leaving in the morning," she thought to herself.
Collins chimed in to echo the praises of his patroness and insert praises of his own: "Indeed, it has been our great fortune to host two such distinguished gentlemen at our humble abode. Mrs. Collins and I shall miss the visits that you have condescended to pay to us," he said, bowing grandly to the two men. They both nodded their heads in acknowledgment of his praise.
"I hope Mrs. Collins will permit one more visit tomorrow," the Colonel told Charlotte.
Charlotte was pleased by this request: "Of course, Colonel Fitzwilliam, we shall look forward to it, shall we not Elizabeth?" she asked, turning her attention to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was stunned that the Colonel and Charlotte were perpetuating the notion that there was more time to visit before the planned departure to London. With all eyes in the room now on her, she merely smiled and nodded her agreement. "What could be the meaning of this?" she wondered, lost in confusion.
When tea was over, the visitors took their leave and returned to the parsonage. Elizabeth observed that Darcy had hardly paid any attention to her during their visit; she concluded that he had probably felt just as awkward as she had and was glad to finally be leaving in the morning. When she was alone with Charlotte, Elizabeth confronted Charlotte: "Why did you agree to another visit tomorrow? The gentlemen will already be gone by then?" she asked.
"Oh my dearest Lizzy!" Charlotte exclaimed. "Have you lost complete track of time since you arrived in Kent? Today is Thursday and the gentlemen do not leave until Saturday morning! There shall be plenty of time for another visit!" she explained with a smile.
Elizabeth was astonished; "Certainly she is mistaken!" she thought. "Yesterday was Thursday! I am unlikely to ever forget that yesterday was the day I received the most offensive and humiliating proposal of my life! Yesterday was Thursday and today is Friday," of this she was certain. "Today is Friday, Charlotte!" she told her friend.
Charlotte laughed with amusement: "Oh Lizzy, you poor dear, you must be overly tired! Let me send a light supper up to your room so you can get some rest," she said, as she turned and walked to the kitchen.
Elizabeth went to her room and contemplated what she had learned. She was certain that she had not lost track of time but for some reason, unknown to her, yesterday was Thursday and today was also Thursday. "How is this even possible?" she wondered. "Why has no one else noticed this aberration?" She took her friend's advice, ate an early supper and retired for the evening, hoping that a good night's rest would bring a resolution to her dilemma.
(Author's Note: Dialogue and text were generously borrowed from the masterpiece: Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813. Your comments and reviews are always welcome.)