Elizabeth drew in a sharp breath and started to scoot towards the right side of the wall. She had no clue whether he was following her or if he had stayed where he was. She felt almost suffocated by his mysteriousness and it made Elizabeth extra cautious with each step she took.
“Let’s see if we can find a way out of here,” she said, her voice tense with desperation. “I would really like to get out of this room.”
She stepped carefully and slowly around the small room, using the wall as a guide. All the while, she was aware of his presence like a shadow that lingered in the air.
She was desperate to find out more about the past between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, but she did not want to start their tense discussion again. She just wished to leave Darcy’s presence.
“Maybe there’s an alternate exit around here somewhere.”
Mr. Darcy declared, “There will not be any entryways from the service corridor to the main rooms; they only exist in the bedrooms and other rooms.”
Elizabeth replied, “I’m going to look into it.” She then spun around and started tapping her knuckles on the walls. Elizabeth searched the walls with her fingertips, feeling for any sign of a hidden entrance.
Hearing things move and muffled cursing, she knew it was Mr. Darcy trying to find his way to the door. He jiggled the handle, shouted “Hello! Can anyone hear me? We’re stuck in here!”, and banged at the door incessantly.
The sounds of the ballroom, of people dancing and talking, was probably too loud for anyone to notice their cries for help. There was no indication that anyone heard him, or was coming to their rescue.
Mr. Darcy explored the walls with his hands, a rhythmic tapping sound echoing through the room. “I did not mean to give the impression that I was disagreeable. Or is that just your opinion that you’ve made without actually ascertaining facts again?”
Elizabeth gave him an exasperated look. “Ask anyone in this town – in Meryton or Hertfordshire – and they would tell you the same. You have shown no effort to fit in here and you have insulted many with your words.” She muttered under her breath, “Myself included.”
Her fingers keep tracing along the wall, and it dawned on her that she has not heard her companion doing the same.
Mr. Darcy responded, “Did you just say that I too had offended you?”
Elizabeth almost stumbled at the unexpectedness of his question but managed to maintain her composure and replied, “Yes, it was the very first dance. There weren’t enough partners for everyone, and so I found myself sitting on the side. Mr Bingley then told you about the Bennet sister sitting on the bench, me, and you replied that I wasn’t handsome enough to tempt you.”
She mimicked his voice when she imitated him, then suddenly felt embarrassed that she’d done so. She muffled her embarrassed laughter and apologized hastily, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.”
The room was deathly quiet. Elizabeth turned back to the wall, her fingers tapping out a chaotic rhythm on the wall.
Mr. Darcy cleared his throat, breaking the silence. “I apologize … for my remarks at the ball. I had no right to make such a comment about you and I am truly sorry.”
Taking a deep breath, she said softly, “Apology accepted, but I think it would be best if we both forget about that incident and move on.”
She then continued her frantic tapping. To her surprise, she heard the sound of knuckles against the opposite wall – in perfect rhythm with her own.
“I fear I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers,” Mr. Darcy remarked.
Elizabeth stopped her pacing and turned to him, a puzzled look on her face. “Why would a man of sense and education, who has lived in the world, be ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers? ”
Mr. Darcy ceased tapping the wall, “I’m…I have not that talent, which some possess, of conversing easily with strangers.”
Elizabeth remarked, “Well, I do not play the pianoforte so well as I should wish to, but I have always supposed that to be my own fault, because I would not take the trouble of practicing.”
“We, neither of us, perform to strangers,” Mr. Darcy responds. “I do not find it so easy to make acquaintances. People do not seem as interested in getting to know me as they are with you.”
Elizabeth laughed. “That’s because I take the time and effort to get to know them. Don’t you want to form relationships with the people you’re surrounded by?”
Mr. Darcy continued to tap his fingers against the wall. “I’m only comfortable with a select few people I know. I don’t particularly enjoy meeting new ones,” he explained.
Elizabeth let out a chuckle. “That’s why everyone thinks you’re so haughty and unfriendly.”
Mr. Darcy curses under his breath, speaking something Elizabeth cannot make out. “I have always strived to stay on the path of the gentleman, to adhere to the rules of proper conduct,” he says. “I suppose striving for excellence can often be misconstrued as being proud or arrogant, when that is not my intention at all.”
Elizabeth arched her brows and stepped along the opposite wall featuring the window. “It seems that having a high bar for yourself can give off the impression that you’re judging those who don’t share the same ideals as you. That might be why folks have an issue with you. Wickham’s divulging of your past actions aren’t helping this matter, given what happened then matches your present-day behavior.”
Darcy glared at her and snapped, “You keep bringing up that man. You have no knowledge of what he has done. The reputations, the lives he has destroyed.”
“Then why don’t you let us know? If he is so awful, why not make sure we never come into contact with him?”
Mr. Darcy replies, “I can’t do that. I don’t want my personal matters to be spread around town.”
“I don’t understand how he could have done you any harm and ruined your life,” she said. But he was silent. She sighed. “I have checked the wall next to me and the one with the window, and you have checked the other two walls. Is there no servants’ entrance to this room?”
“No. Yelling and banging on the door hasn’t had any effect either,” he replied. “It seems we either have to wait until the ball ends so someone can hear us, or we’ll have to use the window.”
Elizabeth approached the window, surveying the drop that awaited anyone who attempted to leave the room from there. “It’s a long way down,” she remarks. “And there’s so much foliage underneath.”
Mr. Darcy let out a light chuckle. “I haven’t shimmied out a window since I was a kid, wanting to sneak out for early morning trout fishing.”
Elizabeth blushed, feeling the heat radiating from Mr. Darcy’s body as he stepped closer to her. She took an awkward step away from him. She knew it was a bad idea to mention it, but she was curious. “Mr. Wickham told me he was raised with you. Did you ever go fishing together?”
Mr. Darcy paused for a moment. “Yes,” he said slowly. “We often went fishing together when we were younger.”
Elizabeth nodded, her eyes wide with curiosity. “So what happened? What changed between you two?”
They faced each other, the window at their backs, as he gazed at her. “It isn’t just me he has wronged,” he said. “He has hurt someone who is very close to me, and whose reputation would be destroyed if the truth came out. And there are countless other women he has ruined too. His gambling debts. You would be wise to stay away from him – to avoid him at all costs. He may appear pleasant and friendly, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
Her voice was laced with irritation. “So, that is all you have to say? You told me that I should consider both sides of the story before I make a decision, and yet, you are only giving me your side. From what I can tell, Mr. Wickham has acted the part of a gentleman. As of now, I haven’t heard anything to change my opinion.”
Elizabeth watched as Mr. Darcy’s face filled with disdain, and he began to unbuckle his jacket. “I understand your reservations, Miss Bennet,” he said in a low voice. “But you must believe me when I say that Wickham is not the man you think he is.”
Alarmed, Elizabeth took a step backward. “What are you doing, Sir?”
“I’m taking off my jacket so I can climb out the window and let you out of this locked room, unless you want to stay here”
Elizabeth huffed and rolled her eyes. “It would be easier for me if I could climb down, considering I’m wearing a dress and do not need to remove any clothing”.
Mr. Darcy gaped at her incredulously. “You can’t just climb out of a window and down a bush! I can’t allow that. How did you even come up with that idea?”
Elizabeth smiled at him mischievously. “You don’t know me very well, Mr. Darcy. When I was younger, I used to climb trees all the time. As a matter of fact, if the opportunity presents itself, and it looks like a particularly attractive tree, I might still take the plunge.”
He gawked at her, unsure how to respond to her suggestion.
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at him. “I think I can handle this,” she said firmly. “I can climb up this ledge, and you can lower me down. It’s not too high,” She suggested.
Mr. Darcy replied, “Are you mad? I cannot permit you, a gentlewoman, to do that. I wouldn’t consent to any female attempting it.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and crossed her arms in front of her chest. She had hoped that Mr. Darcy would be more understanding and cooperative, but it seemed his pride was preventing him from doing so. She knew that if she wanted to get out of the room, she would have to think of another plan quickly; they needed to get out of the room before anyone found them. And they would be forced to marry.
“So how many of your clothes are you planning to take off while we’re still here, so that you can climb down the window? And what do you plan on doing after that, since it’s a fair distance to the bush below? No one else is here to help you down, so it’s likely to be quite a long drop.”
He pressed his lips together firmly and gazed out the window with irritation.
Elizabeth continued, “I could climb out the window, you could lower me down onto the bush and I could come back inside, let you out of the room and no one would ever know.”
Mr. Darcy looked at Elizabeth skeptically, his brow furrowed. “Your dress would tear, you’d get scrapes, and you’d be covered in mud!” he exclaimed incredulously.
Elizabeth smiled mischievously. “You don’t have to worry about that, Mr. Darcy,” she replied confidently. “I am a very capable climber and I assure you I will be fine.”
Mr. Darcy uttered something under his breath.
She tilted her head. “Would it be better to remain here and risk discovery, stuck together in this room for hours?”
She watched his expression change from frustration to resignation.
Mr. Darcy stated firmly, “This is never to be mentioned again.”
Elizabeth agreed, “I swear it.”
Darcy exhaled inaudibly. “Turn towards me and I will raise you up.”
Elizabeth followed his command, extending her arms and lifting her chin. She felt heat radiating from his hands as he moved closer to her, gripping her waist. Her breathing became erratic; she had never felt a man touch her like this before and the thought crossed her mind: what have I gotten myself into?
Elizabeth couldn’t believe Mr. Darcy had just lifted her up onto the window ledge as if she was as light as a feather. “You make that seem quite easy,” she said breathlessly.
“You weigh nothing,” he replied, a hint of amusement in his voice.
She looked back at him and realized how close they were standing, their faces mere inches apart. She could feel the warmth emanating from his body and the intensity of his gaze, which made her heart flutter in her chest. Embarrassed by her reaction, she quickly looked away and lifted her leg up to prepare for climbing out of the window.
And that was when the door burst open, revealing Mary with Caroline Bingley right beside her.
Things look baaaaad for our dear couple when Elizabeth and the Gardiners visit Pemberley…
As Mr. Darcy courts Elizabeth, old foes try to keep them apart and the sheep have more to say as well. But no matter how hard they try, nothing can stop Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth from falling in love. The culprit behind the constant interference is revealed and with a happily ever after, all’s wool that ends wool!