While at Rosings, Mr. Darcy interacts with Elizabeth during calls to the Parsonage and as she and the Collins’ dine at Rosings. Not satisfied with those interactions, he desires to happen upon her as she walks the Park.
Monday, 11 April 1812
Darcy peered anxiously about the edge of the orchard. Where could Elizabeth be?
As they drank tea after dinner, Elizabeth had indicated how she enjoyed the blush-coloured, fluffy blooms of the cherry blossoms each spring. Indeed, Easter would not be the same without such a spectacle she had said.
How could he forget? Her fine eyes had twinkled as she spoke, the smile upon her perfect lips conveyed her joy at the prospect, and the slight tilt of her head was flirtatious. She was so beguiling that as she described the pleasure she took in the season, he instead, entertained visions of the lady walking amongst the pink bowers of flowers found all over England at this time of year.
It had been Fitzwilliam’s boot painfully striking the toe of his shoe, which had brought him back to the conversation. He had cleared his throat and attempted to bring himself under good regulation, but his desire to make his fantasy a reality overrode his good sense. He made mention of this very grove in the hopes he could happen upon her.
After such a discussion, she had to come!
He leaned back against a wide oak near the river and folded his arms across his chest. One more peek around the trunk proved useless—she was not there.
A breeze wafted his great coat away from his body, and he pulled it back with haste. She could not know he had been waiting for her! The meeting had to be an accident since he could not arouse hopes in her that he might not fulfill, at least not yet.
He wanted to offer her marriage. But, no, he could never do such a thing. How could he forget the impropriety so often shown by her mother, her three younger sisters, and even her father. But, those relations could be ignored, could they not? He could pretend they did not exist and make the offer of his hand to Miss Elizabeth, despite her unfortunate connections.
He began to chew the nail of his thumb, but stopped for a moment to give another glance around the orchard. When not a glimpse of her was to be had, he began gnawing upon the poor, ragged fingernail once more.
Any lady with Miss Elizabeth’s penchant for walking and preference for cherry blossoms would be eager to include such a prospect on their morning jaunt, would they not? She had to come!
A shaky hand removed the pocket watch from his coat, and he opened it to check the time. It was almost half nine! When at Netherfield, Miss Elizabeth had never departed later than eight for her morning walk. He had been waiting nigh on a half hour for her to arrive!
He groaned and shoved the watch back into its rightful place. What if she did not come?
What if Mr. or Mrs. Collins detained her at the Parsonage?
What if she had merely been making polite conversation?
What if she was ill?
A sharp pain pierced the tip of his thumb, and he gave an abrupt inhale. He had to cease this biting of his fingernails! The habit was a new one—one he had adopted when Miss Elizabeth stayed at Netherfield with her sister.
London was supposed to solve his dilemma. His unfortunate thumb would heal and he would have the distance from Miss Elizabeth that he required. Yet, the ploy had been unsuccessful. He was in a worse situation than before.
His hands covered his face as he suppressed a growl. She was irresistible, and he was in a sorry state indeed!
A crack, like that of a twig breaking, broke the silence of the grove.
He removed his hands from his face, and tilted his head. Were those footsteps?
Careful not to make a sound, he turned to peer around the oak. A gasp escaped him at a glimpse of blue that moved behind the tree. He tiptoed around the trunk until she came into view. Miss Elizabeth had come!
Remaining out of her sight, he leaned upon the tree and stared as she brought down a bough to smell the blossoms. Laughter rang out like music when, upon releasing the limb, the blush-coloured petals rained upon her head.
Her smile was radiant, her hair glowed in the sunlight permeating through the trees, and her delicate hands were before her as she caught the delicate flowers in her palms. She even giggled as she lifted her bonnet from her arm and strew the petals that had fallen inside.
Reality was better than he had imagined, but he still had yet to approach her. The point of waiting for so long was not only to view her as such, but also to speak with her!
His shoulders dropped. Unless he intended to propose marriage, he could not risk meeting her again under any circumstances. To do so would raise her hopes, and he would not do her the disservice. He had to decide once and for all!
She turned her back to him, and his chance had come. He darted without a sound behind a hedgerow. After a quick tug to his topcoat, he adjusted his great coat as he stepped from behind the bushes.
Miss Elizabeth, who turned in his direction when he emerged, startled.
He approached and bowed as she curtsied. “Miss Elizabeth, how are you enjoying the grove? I do hope it meets with your expectations.”
With a start, she glanced at her surroundings and back to him. “Cherry blossoms never disappoint, Mr. Darcy. But, I must confess I have been here before. It has become a favourite haunt of mine.”
He stretched his arm before him, gesturing further into the trees. “Then, I hope you do not mind my intrusion. I have no pressing business and would be pleased to join you. The grove is particularly beautiful this year.”
She bit her lip. Was she suppressing a smile? She was certain to be pleased at his attention!
As she fell into step at his side, he held back a sigh. This was as it ought to be. This was perfection! He no other option but to beg Elizabeth to become his wife—no other woman would do!