Mr. Darcy was a fortunate man. He had begun his life with a most auspicious birth to a loving couple of wealth and property; he was well-favored, being a tall, dark, extremely handsome fellow; and he had lately experienced the rich blessing of having won the heart of the lady he loved with all his heart, soul, and mind. There was nothing wanting to make him happy – except for one thing.
After a less than perfect first impression, he had wooed and won his heart’s desire and had been assured of her affection and high regard for him. They were officially, gloriously, happily betrothed with a wedding date set four months hence, and he had finally been able to secure the approval, if not the enthusiasm, of most of his family for his chosen bride. The gentleman from Derbyshire had everything required to secure his absolute felicity – everything save what he desired most at the moment.
Elizabeth Bennet, soon to be Darcy, was all he had ever wanted in a woman. Her figure was light and pleasing, her manner was teasing and playful, and her mind was sharp – quick with witty banter and intelligent conversation. He adored her from the top of her lovely head to the soles of her dainty feet. They enjoyed long walks together, conversing endlessly on subjects that both challenged and interested him. Her beautiful green eyes looked up at him full of her love while her full lips seemed to wear a perpetual smile for him. He truly did not know how he had lived without her in his life for nearly thirty years. She had bewitched him. He was fully content with his situation – or very nearly fully content.
His acquaintance with Elizabeth had spanned more than a year; their engagement had been formally announced nearly two months prior. She was his in the eyes of society and would soon belong to him in the eyes of God as well. He knew that he should be ecstatic – and he truly was. To his way of thinking, there was only one thing lacking, for the moment, which formed an impediment to his complete joy.
Beyond grazing her hand with his lips, he had never kissed her. It was inconceivable that he should be expected to wait another four months to kiss the woman who held his heart in her small, capable hands. Could such a thing be borne? He thought not.
He had battled with himself for many weeks, afraid that she would think he was too forward, or that he might frighten her with his passion. Darcy had always been very attentive to every rule of propriety. Could he now breach those rules for his own satisfaction? What would she make of it? Would she think him a brute? How would he live with his own conscience? He had brooded in his solitary moments, weighing all of the mores of society against his desires. Not surprisingly, his desires won the war.
Contemplating the problem, he had decided to take matters into his considerably larger, stronger hands. Why should he not kiss his intended? As was usual with him, making the decision was the most difficult thing. Once he had decided irrevocably in his mind to kiss Elizabeth, he no longer struggled. He instead began to devise a strategy to achieve his goal. He had determined that the best route to his happiness lay in surprise. She had made no attempt to disguise her pleasure in his company; she took his arm without reserve; she agreed to be alone with him for their ramblings on a daily basis; she trusted him implicitly. If he asked for a kiss, he felt that she would bestow it willingly; however, he would rather kiss her without the awkwardness that would come if she knew what he was about.
Darcy fixed a time and place in his mind and thought of it as a fait accompli. He would kiss her during their next outing together on the following morning when they reached the pinnacle of Oakham Mount. If they were seen, he would happily ride to London, procure a special license, and marry her immediately, thereby avoiding all the fuss of a wedding and hastening his eagerly awaited joy in other aspects of their marriage. The anticipation of said event brought a smile to his countenance. He wondered why he had not done it sooner.
After a restless night during which Darcy was certainly not nervous, he rose and was assisted by his valet in his morning ablutions. He directed his man to dress him in Elizabeth’s favorite waistcoat and her preferred coat. She had complimented him each time he had worn them, and he had not missed the look of admiration in her eyes. He did not break his fast, for his stomach seemed to tighten uncomfortably each time he thought of food.
In keeping with his usual routine, for he was a very organized man, he met a groomsman holding the reins of his saddled stallion at the entrance of Netherfield sharply at eight o’clock. After mounting Apollo with the grace of an expert horseman, he rode briskly to Longbourn to collect his chosen bride for their morning constitutional.
Elizabeth awaited him at the door of her home, and at the sight of her, Darcy held his breath. Her face radiated joy in the morning sun, and she wore his favorite pale rose dress. To him, she eclipsed that burning star.
He came to a stop in front of her, dismounted quickly, and handed the reins of Apollo to a waiting stable boy.
“Shall we walk, Elizabeth?” he asked giving her his arm.
She put her hand in the crook of his elbow and tilted her head, smiling up at him.
“I would be most disappointed if we did not walk, Fitzwilliam. Where shall we go this morning?”
Her eyes were so trusting, so completely without guile of any sort. The first stirrings of guilt began to bother his mind. He pushed them aside roughly and continued to follow his plan.
“Let us go to Oakham Mount. The view there is particularly beautiful in the morning. Is it not one of your favorite places?” he asked politely.
“Indeed it is,” she replied, and they set off for the path to that celebrated landmark.
Darcy fell strangely silent, and doubts assailed him. What if she did not want to kiss him before they were married? He would never force his beloved to do anything against her will. What if she turned away from his kiss? He paled at the thought. Even worse, what if she withdrew from their contract and refused to marry him? He was decidedly uncomfortable and increasingly unsure of his decision. By the time they reached their chosen destination, he had changed his mind. He would not risk losing her now. He shuddered involuntarily. The idea was too painful for him to contemplate. He resigned himself to waiting for four more months, cheering himself with the idea that at the close of those months, she would be his in every way.
“Shall we not sit, Fitzwilliam?” queried Elizabeth, interrupting his reverie as they stood before the flat boulder at the top of Oakham Mount.
“Ah, yes.” His answer was short, and he had difficulty looking at her. His scheme was in ashes, but his guilt in forming that scheme still burned. She was an innocent, and he would have betrayed her trust in him. He was highly relieved that he had abandoned the plan before he had ruined his future with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth sat to his left with her hands demurely in her lap. A large calico cat wandered before them and continued to hold their attention as he sauntered past. Darcy watched the animal as he ambled past them and into the woods to his right, turning his head away from Elizabeth to follow the cat’s progress.
The cat disappeared into the underbrush, and Darcy turned his face back toward Elizabeth, intending to comment on the singular lack of curiosity possessed by that particular feline, when he found himself nose-to-nose with his beloved.
Elizabeth quickly put her hands behind his neck, pulling his face down to hers, moving her head in such a way as to accommodate her bonnet and his hat, and soundly kissed him full on the lips.
After the first moment of surprise was past, he put his arms around her and pulled her into his embrace, eagerly returning her kiss. It was a perfect jewel of a moment. He would treasure the memory for the rest of his life. Sensing his reluctance and surmising the reasoning for it, Elizabeth had taken matters into her own delicate hands. She had removed the obstacles and given her affections freely to him. He was blissfully happy in every particular.
After those few moments during which they were mutually assured of the passion that would await them in four months, Elizabeth leaned away from Darcy to look lovingly into his eyes.
“That was not so bad, was it, Fitzwilliam?” she asked, smiling a little shyly at her forwardness.
“No indeed, my love. It was the one thing I required to be perfectly contented. I love you, Elizabeth.”
“As I love you.”
And he embraced her more fully to claim a second kiss, which exceeded all his previous expectations.
Fitzwilliam Darcy was a completely happy man.