On Sunday, after morning service, the separation, so agreeable to almost all, took place. Miss Bingley’s civility to Elizabeth increased at last very rapidly, as well as her affection for Jane; and when they parted, after assuring the latter of the pleasure it would always give her to see her either at Longbourn or Netherfield, and embracing her most tenderly, she even shook hands with the former. Elizabeth took leave of the whole party in the liveliest of spirits. Chapter 12
From Mr. Darcy’s point of view.
November 17, 1811
Darcy and Bingley stood quietly side by side as they watched the carriage conveying Jane and Elizabeth Bennet drive away. The Hursts and Miss Bingley had quickly returned to the house after bidding the ladies farewell. The men’s eyes remained fixed on the swirl of dirt kicked up by the wheels from the carriage as it made a turn and soon disappeared from view. They turned and slowly walked back towards the house. Bingley let out a long sigh. Darcy kept his to himself.
The men joined the others in the drawing room where Bingley collapsed into a chair with a wistful smile. His head fell back and he folded his hands onto his lap.
Miss Bingley looked from her brother to Darcy. She lifted a brow. “I certainly hope we can endure the absence of those two ladies.” She directed a forced smile at Mr. Darcy. “Mr. Darcy, you shall no longer have the benefit of a pair of fine eyes. Shall you miss them? Perhaps you have etched them in your memory? Are they truly so fine that they have erased every trace of her objectionable family?” She tilted her head as she awaited an answer.
Darcy let out a low grumble, but clenched his jaw so he would say nothing. For the past few days, Miss Bingley’s spiteful remarks had continued unabated, and Darcy regretted ever admitting to her that he found Miss Bennet’s eyes fine. But oh, how fine they are!
There was more to her than just her fine eyes, however. With each passing minute in her presence, he found it more and more difficult not to take great delight in her spark of liveliness and intelligence, her warm and frequent smiles, her musical laugh, and in his repartees with her. The mere thought of her made his pulse race. He stifled another sigh.
Darcy’s silence seemed to subdue Miss Bingley’s criticisms, for which he was most grateful. He had heard enough from her since the first day Elizabeth arrived.
He picked up his book; one he had started before the Bennet sisters arrived at Netherfield. He normally would have finished it by now, but his mind had been so filled with Elizabeth’s presence, he could barely concentrate on a single sentence. He hoped picking up the book would indicate to Miss Bingley his preference not to engage in conversation at the present.
Fortunately, Darcy was left to himself. Bingley was inclined to speak about Jane to anyone who would listen. Miss Bingley listened politely as her brother accounted for the days Miss Bennet had been there, starting with his concern over her illness, to being so delighted that he could offer her exceptional care, and finally, that she had improved in health.
As Darcy surreptitiously listened, he believed he had never seen his friend display such intensity of affection for a lady. He had seen him in love several times, but this was different. Very different.
That night, Darcy retired early to his chambers. He dismissed his valet and sat down in a chair, letting his head drop back. “So she is finally gone!” he gruffly whispered. “So be it! Perhaps this will finally allow me some peace of mind again!”
In the darkness of the room, lit by a single candle, he suddenly felt an emptiness grip him. He closed his eyes and fisted his hands, attempting to rid himself of this most inexplicable feeling. He blew out a puff of air. She was entirely wrong for him!
He began to slowly shake his head. “Miss Bennet, your relative situation is considerably beneath mine! This is merely a misplaced affection on my part. I shall no longer dwell on those things I find so…” Darcy drew in a breath and whispered, “…that I find so irresistible.”
He suddenly sat upright and grasped the arms of the chair. “You displayed your imprudent country manners, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, by walking through muddy fields and along waterlogged roads. You mocked me, claiming I was without those follies and nonsense that allow for teasing! Examine me, Miss Elizabeth, and proclaim all my defects! Then challenge my every thought and opinion, even when I am extending a compliment your way!”
His rigid and erect comportment began to gradually collapse as he slumped into his chair. “Refuse my offer to dance a reel. Laugh at my attempt to placate the incivility directed at you by Bingley’s sisters.”
He swayed, as if every fibre of his being was in a swirl of conflicting thought and emotion. “Dare to weaken my defences and my resolve with your sparkling eyes and delightful smile, even as you confront me! Then astonish me by defending me to your mother when she misconstrues my meaning. How am I to remain collected in your presence when one moment you defend me and the next you pronounce judgment?”
His head dropped back and his eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling above. The single candle sputtered, sending muted flickers of light about the room. “Disappoint me by remaining silent when I wished so much to hear your lively voice and your clever and thought-provoking opinions.”
He let out a huff and roughly ran his hand through his hair. “Torture me with your relations! How can one be so suitable for me in so many ways whilst at the same time be so completely unsuitable because of her family connections?”
“When you arrived with mud on the hem of your dress, why did you have such a glowing countenance? Did you suspect the effect that would have on me? Was that a deliberate employment of your arts to entrap me?”
The flame of the candle finally extinguished, cloaking his chambers in darkness. He felt a surge of determination consume him. In a whisper, he declared to himself, “Now that you are gone, Elizabeth, I shall finally have some peace!”