This is “officially” a one-shot but I do have a habit of coming back to old stories. So no promises that I won’t continue it one day. This is all due to Leenie Brown and Zoe Burton demanding I write a fluffy piece. The novella I’m working on does not count as fluff, so I thought I’d try a one-shot to appease them. 🙂
(Don’t) Ask Me How I Know
Elizabeth Bennet sighed in frustration and told herself for the thousandth time to quit recalling the events of the day and simply go to sleep. Staying in an unfamiliar room did not help matters. Her chamber at Netherfield was very comfortable, but it was not home. Now that she had seen Jane was in no real danger with her cold, Elizabeth regretted visiting and the civility which prompted her to stay. No one besides Jane and Mr. Bingley enjoyed her presence. The Bingley sisters would never be rude to Jane, and so Elizabeth felt reasonably sure her sister would have been well tended to whether she had arrived or not.
As for Mr. Darcy… All he chose to do was stare or argue with her.
Or ask you to dance.
Annoyed, Elizabeth sat up and swung her feet over the edge of the bed. After sliding her feet into slippers, she donned a dressing gown and tied it firmly around her waist. Lighting a candle, she left her room and returned to the drawing room. She had left some embroidery behind. Not that she typically enjoyed the activity, but it might be sleep inducing.
After rummaging through the different work tables, Elizabeth looked through the drawers of the desk that Mr. Darcy had been seated at earlier in the evening. Finally, finding her needlework and wondering what maid would have put it away there and how aghast Miss Bingley would be at the idea of an inferior servant, Elizabeth picked it up only to see her name on a piece of paper.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet is quite the wit. She has somehow construed my words praising Bingley’s amiability into an insult which resulted in an argument about the persuasion of friends.
Elizabeth’s cheeks burned as she read Mr. Darcy’s words. She had no idea that he would include her in his letter and she blushed to consider that his sister, of whom she had heard a great deal, would know her character without ever having the benefit of meeting her. Glancing around to assure she was indeed alone, Elizabeth snatched up the letter to read more. She held it close to the dim light from her candle and although Darcy’s handwriting was quite clear the darkness made her go slowly.
The beginning of the letter contained only information about his stay at Netherfield since he last wrote and then recorded Jane and Elizabeth’s arrival. What a kind brother to include details which must be of little interest to him, but apparently interested his sister. He even described Jane and Elizabeth so Miss Darcy might have a clear image of them. Here, Elizabeth blushed again, for she did not expect Darcy calling her lovely with very fine eyes. Additionally, he praised her cleverness and abilities on the pianoforte.
Shaking her head to dispel the thoughts and strange feeling diffusing through her body, Elizabeth returned her attention to the letter. Darcy also added snippets of other conversations and gave commentary on them directed to his sister. Heat slapped her face again as mortification swept through her at the recounting of her mother and sisters’ visit. However, Darcy was kinder than she had expected and only counselled his sister to be more discreet than demanding a ball. He seemed to dwell quite some time on the need to curb one’s impulses. Elizabeth rolled her eyes considering he needed to learn the lesson as well.
At last, she reached the recounting of the evening. After the section regarding Bingley and his humility came an unexpected passage of deep reflection.
You have asked me how you should know next time when you are truly in love. Beware, my sweet sister, for you have the Darcy spirit of stubbornness. You swear now that you will never trust again and never marry. One day, however, you will find the gentleman you never thought you would.
Real, genuine love is an entirely new sensation. It steals your breath and leaves you feeling like you just ran down Thompson Hill at breakneck speed. All the while you feel a thrill and yet, in the distance lingers disaster. You will fight to keep control. In short, nothing like your feelings with W.
Soon, you will spend all your time wondering how he ever worked his way into your heart. Your pride will demand walls of defense. For example, you might think him too low. You may scrutinize his family and find them lacking all the while dismissing the prick of your conscience that others like our Aunt Catherine are no better. The harder you cling to our noble lineage the more you will know you have fallen hard.
Then, after you have pushed him away due to all your own fears and insecurities, he will hate you, and you will see how lonely your life is.
Do not ask me how I know.
I will tell you what I wish I were brave enough to do myself. Embrace this sort of love, do not fight it.
Elizabeth heard a step in the hall dropped the letter, retreated to a corner and blew out her candle. A moment later, Mr. Darcy entered with a candelabra and began rifling through the desk. Dropping to one knee, he discovered the letter on the floor. Belatedly, Elizabeth realized her snuffed candle would surely tell him someone had recently been in the room. If she could just keep quiet, she might fool him into thinking he was alone.
Darcy bent his head over the letter, rereading his lines. Elizabeth’s mind wandered. Was his gruff nature due to his tormented feelings? It was all a pretense while he fought his attraction to some lady? Could he be in love with Miss Bingley? And yet, he was never less than civil to her. The only one he had truly seemed unkind to was herself.
“Elizabeth,” Darcy said with so much anguish it tore her heart. “What am I to do without you?”
A gasp escaped her and immediately, he swung his head in her direction.
“Who is there?”
Elizabeth tried to hold her breath, but it did no good when he picked up the lamp and came nearer. She blushed and stared at her feet, unable to meet his eyes.
“Here,” he said and reached for her candle.
When his fingers brushed hers, sparks of fire shot up her arm. Her heart began to pound suddenly she felt as though she had just run down a hill. It brought her head up.
Darcy stared at her imperiously. “You should leave. It would not do to be found here with me.”
Elizabeth mutely nodded. Her throat too dry to speak.
“Be careful on the stairs,” he murmured.
“I will,” she stammered.
As she left the room, she felt his intense blue eyes watching her. When she reached her chamber, Elizabeth conceded that perhaps all the time he had seemed too unkind, he was expressing his love. The times he seemed too cold, he was attempting to restrain his feelings.
All night, she thought over his words. She well understood pride and walls of defense. She understood being hyper critical. She perceived how she felt out of control the minute she had first seen Mr. Darcy’s face and tried and failed countless times to reassert dominance over her feelings.
But did danger truly lurk in the distance? What could be so very terrible about Mr. Darcy loving her or Elizabeth loving him? After reading his letter, she was persuaded she was well on her way. It had not been a sweet, gentle emotion as natural as the lapping of the tide at a beach like Jane felt for Bingley–but then she and Darcy had very different temperaments from Jane and Bingley.
If Elizabeth and Darcy acted on their attraction, would anyone be harmed? She could bring him little fortune — but he had enough for both of them. By his own pen, they both had ridiculous relatives. He had admitted to needing only more courage. Well, Elizabeth had never been accused of lacking that.
Tossing aside the counterpane for the second time that night, Elizabeth approached the small writing desk in her room.
Dear Mr. Darcy,
As you know, I stumbled across your letter to your sister. Feeling certain that although I do not know the lady, I might know more about ladies than you, I have impertinently determined to lend some assistance.
Some women know they are in love when the world stands still and they look in their beloved’s eyes. For others, it is during their first dance or unexpected touch. Still, for some, like me, it is only after they have told themselves a thousand times that they hate the man do they recognize the signs.
Yes, some women are headstrong and as bullheaded as any man. They may judge a man’s character due to prejudice and irrational beliefs. Their vanity and pride might be wounded all the while masking a heart that is afraid to trust and love.
Then, something will change. She will see the man beneath the exterior that is hidden from so many others. His every word, look, and action becomes clear in the new framework. In the face of such overwhelming love and devotion, only a cold-hearted woman could remain unmoved. Feeling assured of the secret object of her affections’ admiration, she will no longer insist on hiding them from herself.
Do not ask me how I know.
The only question remaining will be if she dares have enough courage for them both?
The sun was just beginning to rise when Elizabeth snuck out of her chamber and slid the note under Darcy’s door. As she managed to be the first to breakfast, she stayed just long enough to inform Bingley and the others that she intended to walk this morning.
Pacing the garden, Elizabeth wondered if she made the correct choice. At last, she heard a crunching noise and turned to see Darcy walking toward her in bold strides. He reached her in a matter of seconds.
“Elizabeth,” he said breathing as heavily as if he had run to her. “Tell me how you know.” He pulled her letter from his pocket. “You said not to ask, but I must know.”
A slow smile crept across Elizabeth’s face, but she shook her head. “Is it not obvious?”
Darcy gathered her hands in his. “I will be brave enough for both of us,” he kissed each knuckle. “I love you. Will you take my hand in marriage?”
Rather enjoying his large hands wrapped around hers and thinking of the night before, her mouth went dry. Finally, she managed a nod and a weak, “I will.”
Instantly, Darcy grinned, restoring her to playfulness.
“I believe your letter said something about embracing now,” she teased.
“That it did. That it did.” Darcy pulled her into his arms and expressed himself even better with his kisses than he did in letter form.