Longbourn – the next morning
Lizzy had planned to weather the storm of scandal secluded in the safety of her bedchamber, not wanting even to face her family. This was especially true of one in particular, her mother, who had ranted on so cruelly their entire way home from the ball. Elizabeth, in tears had immediately run up to her room slamming the door, bracing a chair against it to not even allowing Jane to enter.
By the first light of day she had cried enough.
Now that morning had come and gone -- along with Mr Darcy's recent departure from Longbourn, she was even more confused and puzzled about all that had taken place.
Despite her resolve during the night -- to hate him for all eternity -- this morning -- after her very lengthy discussion with Mr Darcy… rather… uhm… Fitzwilliam… her feelings had undergone a great upheaval, and were quite the opposite toward that gentleman!
Her father had summoned or rather commanded her presence in his library even before she had the opportunity to partake of breakfast. She had hoped to avoid speaking to anyone until she had gained control over her emotions, but to her utter shock, was taken aback by Mr. Darcy's presence likewise in the library at so early in the day.
To further surprise Lizzy, her father insisted that she remain alone in his library with Mr Darcy and emphasized that she pay close attention to what Mr. Darcy wished to discuss and reveal to her.
Her father quickly gathered a couple of his books, and hurriedly exited, declaring, “Hill will shortly bring a tray of tea and refreshments.” Her father was sensible to the fact that she had not partaken of her breakfast and would need sustenance to endure all of what Mr. Darcy was to relate. He further indicated that they would not be disturbed until Mr. Darcy summoned him again to the library.
While Mr Bennet left Darcy to plead his case with Lizzy to persuade her to accept his marriage proposal, he knew he now had a very unpleasant task to perform. He had to deal with Mr Collins, who had given Mrs Bennet every indication he planned to make Lizzy his bride, thus securing the Bennet family from the future misfortunes of Longbourn's entailment to Mr Collins.
There was nothing to do but make haste of informing Mrs Bennet and then Mr Collins that Lizzy was soon to be engaged to Mr Darcy. Mr Bennet could hardly wait to see the distractions unfold as he unleashed this information.
Once Mrs Bennet heard from Mr Bennet what was occurring in his library between Darcy and Lizzy, she immediately abandoned the vexing thought of the entailment. Furthermore, as Mr Bennet rolled his eyes at his wife's response to Mr Darcy's claims to have already been in love with their daughter, she squealed in delight as if their scandalous behaviour the night before had never even occurred in her way of thinking. Instead, she prepared to visit her sister, Mrs Phillips to share her good news!
"Mr. Bennet, our Lizzy is a sly one, trapping Mr Darcy into a proposal with her arts and allurements. I imagine that incident in the Netherfield library was some how planned to bring about this fortunate alliance."
"Mrs. Bennet that is quite enough, it is unfair and cruel for you to think this of Lizzy, according to Mr. Darcy the whole affair was an accident. I warn you madam, if you persist in gossiping with your sister, I insist that you do not even mention that incident at Netherfield library. Mr Darcy has convinced me in spite of his wealth and consequences being an advantageous alliance with our Lizzy that he indeed cares for her… even claims to have fallen in love with her and above all he is willing to do whatever it takes to restore her reputation. However, I give you my full consent to feel free to indulge your fanciful imaginations, for Mr Darcy plans to not only court our Lizzy before they are married, but to hold a grand engagement ball in honor of their union."
"Mr. Bennet, you astonish me, how and where can this be?"
"Madam, when you return I will discuss this further with you, after Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth come to an understanding. He is quite an extraordinary young man, having convinced me of his honorable intentions. After having discussed with him several other significant issues, he has managed to change my negative opinion of him as an arrogant conceited man, to one of the best of men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He has certainly enlightened me with facts and proof against the slanderous rumours that have previously been circulating about him. Pray his persuasive abilities will overpower Lizzy's stubbornness!"
Mrs Bennet listened to her husband with her mouth agape, but when he was finished all she seemed to focus on was that her Lizzy would soon become the mistress of Pemberley – with an income of ten thousand a year or perhaps more. Oh what pin money Lizzy would have, how very fortunate her married life would be to Mr Darcy and what much better advantages this would be for the whole Bennet family! Even though Mrs Bennet's nerves were all a flutter, her mood was very enthusiastic. She could hardly wait to inform Mrs. Phillips of this new development -- A grand engagement ball… the scandalous incident was insignificant in her mind now that she knew there would be much work to be done in preparation for such an event, that would certainly be the talk of the whole of Meryton!
As for Mr Collins, when he heard this news, he secretly made up his mind that he would follow through on his second plan to secure a wife. Charlotte Lucas had been very amiable to him, especially last night at the Netherfield ball. Afterall, when that scandalous display of behaviour had occurred between his cousin, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, he knew her reputation had been utterly compromised. Thus, in his mind he had already decided to abandon his first plan to propose to any of his Bennet cousins, least the scandal tarnish his own reputation. If any of it ever reached Lady Catherine, he knew she would be outraged.
As it turned out Charlotte did accept Mr. Collins' marriage proposal. They were married in a quiet ceremony with only family and close friends in attendance, for Mr Collins was anxious to present his new bride to Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Indeed, it was a very good prudent decision for Charlotte's situation and the whole Lucas family was very pleased for her good fortune.
It had started out very awkward, with Lizzy grateful for the momentary distraction of serving tea to Mr. Darcy. She purposely refused to look directly at him, all the while keeping her puffy red eyes either downcast or out the window, knowing he had come to do his duty. The honorable thing for him was to offer his proposal.
However, she was extremely outraged – not only at Mr. Darcy – but also with her father! How could he possibly further compromise her, by leaving her all alone in a closed room with Mr Darcy? She was much too distraught at the moment to completely pay any attention or even reply to whatever civilities Mr. Darcy was speaking.
Instead, her thoughts were engaged in preparing to refuse him…
When she finally calmed, composing herself enough to listen to him, she warily glanced at his face – saw the intensity of his eyes – so filled with sorrow, so guilty for his behavior, so…? There was something else more significant in his look toward her.
What is the meaning of the look* he has toward me?
At that very moment she heard him declare his love…
Mr Darcy had actually said he loved her!
She could not help herself as her mouth dropped open, her eyes ablaze. She froze -- as if in a dream -- she must have paled, for he immediately came to her side as she sat stunned. Wide eyed and momentarily immobilized as he placed both his warm hands tenderly on each side of her face -- imploring her with his intense gaze -- she could not speak.
He then tilted her chin upward ever so cautiously, and gently kissed her lips. By then Lizzy had closed her eyes and gave in to the power of the sensations she had never before experienced. He was quietly whispering endearments to her, as he continued to kiss her in such a way, she found his tongue suddenly probing her mouth, igniting such passions throughout her whole body, that she felt as if she were about to swoon. At first trying to push away from him, she chose simply to give in to all the wondrous feelings that warmed and tingled down to her toes. As Darcy felt her body relaxing he deepened his kiss, still whispering such loving things to her; she felt herself melting in his arms. Lizzy could no longer resist him, clinging to him with both arms around his neck -- imitating his kisses and seeking his mouth, both of them boldly discovering the delights of this sudden intimacy.
Finally, breathless – he reluctantly loosened his grip on her – but still gently held her head as he continued declaring his love for her repeatedly. Looking deeply into her eyes with such intensity, he dropped to one knee and laid his head on her lap – as he began to beg her to relieve his suffering and consent to marry him….
* The Look – my favorite photo of a love struck Darcy