Mr. Darcy of Pemberley prided himself on his superiority of mind, his righteous virtue, his self control. Still, he was a man; he had certain needs, those natural inclinations, those base urges that all men must suffer. And single men, or single men of any moral rectitude, must suffer the most. And to enter into the state of matrimony for the purpose of the convenient satisfaction of such urges was a proposition repugnant to his high moral sensibilities. The Mistress of Pemberley must be a lady of certain pedigree, intelligent, yes, intelligence first, but beauty also, as well as sense, sweetness of manner, generosity of spirit, and above all, the highest moral principles. The additional requirements of an excellent (preferably titled) family, impeccable connections, and, if possible, a magnificent fortune, were hardly less essential than that his future wife should be of the same species.
His mental excellence had given him utter governance over his body. He was not subject to the depraved impulses of lesser men. His mind, his spirit, and his body were one and all were under good regulation. His heart, on the other hand, well his heart did not quite fit into the reckoning as of yet. He was not susceptible to the charms of the flattering females who courted him in the hope of elevating themselves, their fortunes, and their families by ensnaring him into the matrimonial trap. He was immune to their arts and allurements. He was disgusted by them. He remembered one of his cousins once saying that the principal benefit of being rich was to attract women. An inexcusably irresponsible sentiment from a future earl.
Mr. Darcy was nothing if not regimented. Everything was done on a carefully maintained schedule. Everything. Certain things had to be handled. It could not be helped. He had, through careful scientific analysis of his own habits, developed a schedule for those necessary personal administrations which minimized the frequency of the act while satisfying the savage needs of his masculinity. Twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, after undressing him for bed, his valet would leave an extra towel next to his water basin before leaving the room. The next morning, Mr. Darcy would leave the soiled towel next to the chamber pot, folded neatly, to secure its contents. These personal interludes never involved fantasies of any specific women of his acquaintance. He must necessarily think of someone, but it was always an anonymous, faceless woman. Faceless but not nameless. The lady in his imagination was always, of course, Mrs. Darcy.
Such was the state of things with Mr. Darcy, that paragon of masculine virtue, when he entered Hertfordshire with his friend, Mr. Bingley. The first social gathering they attended was an assembly ball. Darcy disdained balls. He disliked dancing. Too much touching, too many expressive body movements. He danced with Bingley's sisters – there was no danger there, but would not stand up with any lady outside his own party. Bingley, a man who still had not attained that height of self governance exemplified by his friend, urged him to dance, offering a sister of his own partner as a potential candidate. This was absolutely out of the question. To pay such a compliment to a young lady unknown to him would certainly provoke her to believe he admired her; and that would be the end of his peace of mind. The last thing he needed was to encourage yet another woman to court his favor. He looked at her. She wasn't even pretty. He told Bingley so and after laughing a little at him for it, his friend returned to the dance.
That night Darcy went to bed as usual. He liked Netherfield. It was quiet. The bed was comfortable. His door was locked – just in case. He closed his eyes. Sleep usually came easily for him. On this night, however, it eluded him. He had not been in bed long before he felt … something; a twinge, an urge, a growing need. He looked down and asked philosophically, “What is this? It is neither Monday nor Thursday, and I do not have a towel!” He laid his head back down, wishing it to go away. He could and would will it away. He was, after all, under good regulation. But there it was, his body defying him. He had arrows yet in his quiver, however. “Think of Miss Bingley.” He closed his eyes. “Miss Bingley. Yes.” The feeling subsided. He smiled. He had conquered the sensation. He cleared his mind to rest. But in a moment the urge was back with a vengeance and the thought of Miss Bingley nowhere within the reach of his mind, only the anonymous, ever elusive, Mrs. Darcy. He could not help himself. He gave in to the betrayal of his body. And just as his need peaked, a face appeared in his mind's eye. The girl from the assembly he had refused to dance with: Miss Elizabeth Bennet. “She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
Mr. Darcy awoke the next morning very disappointed with himself. He went for a ride after breakfast for a careful mental review of his personal schedule. When had his allowances for such administrations become insufficient? Perhaps it was an anomaly. He would be vigilant. No thought of Miss Elizabeth Bennet entered his head.
Within a few days, Mrs. Bennet and all her daughters called on the ladies at Netherfield. They were still present when the gentlemen came in from shooting. Mr. Darcy took no pleasure in their company but sat in the room with them – so many of them – the picture of politeness. Bingley was attentive to the eldest. One clearly did not want to be there. One coughed, a lot – was she in distress? Should he offer her a glass of wine? The mother and the youngest daughter – was she really the youngest? – talked almost nonstop. How could anyone follow their conversation? When Darcy rested his eyes on the last of the Bennet ladies, Miss Elizabeth, the memory of his sudden urge for unscheduled maintenance came rushing back to him. He almost colored, but he checked his reaction. He was under good regulation.
After the visitors left them, Miss Bingley asked him to walk outdoors. A walk outdoors with Miss Bingley would not usually be an enticing proposition, but at the moment, it was just what he needed. Yes, he was under good regulation. He would walk outdoors. He waited for the lady to get her things. Ladies need so many things: a hat, a pelisse, gloves, just to walk outdoors. He was not sure he would last. He had never been so impatient for Miss Bingley's return. How else was he supposed to repress yet another sudden twinge? And in the daytime! It was appalling! But he was sure it would come to nothing, it would pass. He began repeating to himself, “I am under good regulation. I am under good regulation.” Certain parts of him were not convinced. He had to go to his room. When he returned, he was obliged to apologize profusely to Miss Bingley for his sudden disappearance and walk outdoors with her, even though he no longer had need of her company.
The Netherfield party dined at Longbourn on Thursday with the principal families of the neighborhood. The Bennets and the Lucases dined at Netherfield on Monday. He had further occasion to observe Miss Elizabeth Bennet at these events and had to acknowledge to himself that she could be pretty. She was pretty when she laughed, and she laughed a lot. And though Mr. Darcy suffered no more unscheduled impulses during this interim, the young lady, unaccountably, now featured regularly in his usual ministrations. This he was willing to accept, albeit reluctantly, if he could only stay on schedule. He was pleased to have returned to his regular routine and to his sanity. He was under good regulation. All was well with the world.
Then, they dined at the Gouldings' on Wednesday. The Longbourn party attended, of course. On Wednesday night, another betrayal. On Saturday they all met at Lucas Lodge. He was looking at Miss Elizabeth, admiring her eyes, trying to ignore that pesky little twinge. Thankfully, Miss Bingley approached him. The twinge disappeared. He told her he had been meditating on Miss Elizabeth's “fine eyes.” Her wit flowed long. Later that night those fine eyes were vibrant in his imagination, looking back at him with desire. “Oh God,” he uttered to no one in the darkness. “The very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”
It was now clear to Mr. Darcy that days of the week were irrelevant. Thankfully, the Netherfield gentlemen were next to dine with the officers in Meryton. No ladies. This was a welcome change, but would set in motion a turn of events that sent Mr. Darcy's well-regulated life reeling. The dinner with the officers was unremarkable. The next morning, however, brought a most alarming addition to Netherfield in the form of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who had walked the three miles from Longbourn to see her sister who had taken ill at Netherfield the day before. She made her appearance at breakfast, fine eyes and all. They were brightened by the exercise.
The other gentlemen meant to go shooting immediately after breakfast. Darcy could not join them. At least not immediately. He had to go to his room first. He would catch up to them. “This is getting out of hand,” he thought to himself as he threw down his not so neatly folded towel. He found the other gentlemen, and after the morning's sport, returned to the house to learn that Miss Elizabeth Bennet was still within, though, thankfully, sitting in the sick room with her sister. But when Miss Bingley announced that she had been obliged to invite her to remain until her sister was recovered, Mr. Darcy was disconcerted in the extreme. He was terrified of the abuse to his own body that must inevitably result from her residence in the same house. He immediately rang for his valet and ordered extra towels to his room.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet was at dinner but returned directly to her sister thereafter. Darcy sat next to Miss Bingley; he was under good regulation. Later in the evening she joined them again in the drawing room, where the entire party were at loo. The conversation was stimulating. She proved herself to be intelligent, clever even. Too clever. Those eyes. Another towel. “I have pleasure in many things.” Darcy did not even know what day it was. What did it matter?
The next day brought Mrs. Bennet and her other three daughters to visit Miss Bennet. The mother was annoying. Miss Elizabeth talked of poetry. Poetry will drive away a thin inclination. It was worth a try. After he visited his room, he searched Bingley's library for a book of poetry. She joined them again in the drawing room in the evening. But Darcy was writing a letter to his sister and listening to Miss Bingley's flattery, neither of which could be conducive to the effects of Miss Elizabeth's presence. He was under good regulation. Nevertheless, she was before him again that night, “Despise me if you dare.” Indeed, he did not dare.
The next morning he walked in the shrubbery with Miss Bingley. Just what he needed. They were discussing his domestic felicity. Miss Elizabeth Bennet joined them for a moment with Mrs. Hurst, but thankfully did not linger long enough to do any damage; and with both Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst to counteract her influence, he was certainly under good regulation. That evening she brought her sister into the drawing room. Darcy took up his book of poetry hoping to drive away the bewitchment he had been suffering under. They spoke of a ball at Netherfield. Miss Bingley and Miss Elizabeth walked around the room together. Now there was a strange contradiction; one attracted him, the other repulsed him. Nevertheless, he could feel the beginnings of the familiar impulse. He was now resigned to his schedule having been wholly overthrown and exerted the entirety of his energy to the effort of making it through the evening with no external indicator of his condition. At last he was alone in his room. “You are safe from me.” He was not safe. Far from it.
At last, the next day Miss Elizabeth announced that she was going home. Bingley convinced her to remain one more day and leave in the morning after church. Foolish, foolish Bingley! Darcy avoided her on Saturday. He could not afford to spend too much time in her presence; the toll on his body was too great. She sat with him alone in the library for the longest half hour of his entire life. But he was under good regulation. He read earnestly from his book of poetry hoping for it to have the desired effect, but to no avail. As soon as she left the library, he had to run up to his room. This was intolerable!
On Sunday morning he watched her get into Bingley's carriage with her sister. At last he would be free of her. But that night, all he could think when the urge visited him was, “Not on a Sunday!” By Monday all was back to normal. He had no intention of immediately resuming his accustomed routine. He needed a respite. By his account, he need not return to his regular schedule for at least a month! He was again under good regulation.
Mr. Darcy fervently hoped he would not encounter Miss Elizabeth again until the ball. Unfortunately, Bingley had other ideas. By Tuesday morning, he wanted to call on Miss Bennet to inquire as to the state of her health. Of course he did. The two gentlemen were riding through Meryton on their way to Longbourn when they happened upon the Bennet ladies. They were talking to a man of his acquaintance. Mr. Wickham! It had been only a momentary glance. But the effect was to carry away every thought of his personal troubles, his schedule, his urges. Nothing else could hold his attention for some hours following this encounter. By bed time he had quite forgotten having seen Miss Elizabeth Bennet. But alas, his body had not and it betrayed him thoroughly.
The next morning Bingley and his sisters went to Longbourn to deliver an invitation to the ball. Darcy did not go. He didn't think his body could take it. He knew he would have to conserve his energy for the night of the ball; not for the dancing, but for what he suspected it would provoke afterwards. Mercifully it rained every day until the day of the ball. Everyone but Darcy cursed the rain. He was under good regulation.
On Tuesday, he attended Bingley's ball with equanimity. He knew what would happen. He was prepared for his fate. He danced with Mr. Bingley's sisters first, to help fortify him, then he asked Miss Elizabeth to dance. He reasoned that he might as well get it over with sooner rather than later. He was satisfied, pleased even, with the entire evening. He had maintained his composure, he had averted any disastrous outward sign of his preoccupation. He was proud of himself for his self control. He was under good regulation. He was ready for what happened in his room that night. He had been expecting the urge, the need, and he dutifully cooperated, even though it was Tuesday. He even smiled to himself in satisfaction afterwards. What he did not expect was a return of the impulse after a few minutes of lying blissfully in the aftermath of his exertions. Once was not enough; he had danced with her, after all. “I would never suspend any pleasure of yours.”
On Wednesday Bingley left Netherfield. On Thursday Darcy followed. He had had enough. His life quickly returned to normal. It cannot be said that he did not think at all about Miss Elizabeth Bennet after leaving Hertfordshire, but he was able to get back on schedule. He had four months of tranquility during which he was under very good regulation. Four months of his sister's company. Four months of London society – of being assiduously courted and flattered – this was a cure if ever there was one for his affliction.
In late March he was to go to Rosings Park with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, to visit their aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh and her daughter, Anne De Bourgh. No danger there. Little did he know that the havoc wreaked on his schedule in Hertfordshire would pale in comparison to his visit to Kent. On the morning after their arrival Mr. Collins came to Rosings to pay his respects. He brought the astonishing news that Miss Elizabeth Bennet was now staying with him and his wife at Hunsford Parsonage. He and Colonel Fitzwilliam immediately went to call on the ladies. For Darcy, it was almost an experiment. Would she have the same effect on him as in Hertfordshire? It had been four months after all. And he had been under such good regulation for all of them. There was only one way to find out. He had his answer before the end of the visit. Upon returning to Rosings, he went immediately to his room. He might as well get it over with. After that he did not visit at the parsonage again. He saw Miss Elizabeth in church on Easter day and she came to Rosings that evening. On a Sunday again; and Easter Sunday of all days! Oh, where was Miss Bingley when he needed her? “My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.”
The next day Darcy called at the parsonage. Consequences be damned! But he found Miss Elizabeth alone. That he had not expected. It would be a long night. Nevertheless, he was now going voluntarily to Hunsford almost every day in addition to finding Elizabeth on her rambles in the park. In consequence, he was back to a daily schedule. The night of his having met her a third time in the park was particularly intense. He could not help but release one desperate muffled exclamation: “Mrs. Darcy!” He knew what he had to do.
The next day he did not see Miss Elizabeth. She was supposed to dine at the Park. He waited in restless anticipation for her arrival. She did not come. He walked with his usual deliberation, driven by the utmost force of passion, to the parsonage after dinner. He confessed everything – well almost everything. He had been struggling in vain. She refused him. Refused him! The breathless, heated exchange might have aroused lesser men. But for once, Darcy left her presence with no other sensation than a broken heart. “You are the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.”
In the morning he wrote a letter defending himself against her very unjust accusations. He found her in the park and handed her the letter. He did not need to go to his room afterwards. He left Rosings the next morning. Never to see her again. But getting back on his regular schedule was hardly a consideration. He never expected to have another carnal urge in the whole course of his life.
The ensuing months were a time of reflection and resignation. He was once again under good regulation. In August he returned to Pemberley: his home; his sanctuary. He had not ceased to think of the events of April, but after a while he had been able to think of other things as well. He had learned to live with the loss of his heart. He was happy as he arrived at his home. A sense of peace and serenity washed over him as he walked from the stables to the house. And then he saw her, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, not twenty yards away, standing outside his home. He stopped. He spoke to her. But not for long. He had to get away. He ran up to his room. His urges were back, and more vigorous than ever. What was she doing here? How was it possible? He went again to find her immediately afterwards and was introduced to her aunt and uncle. He stayed with them until they departed Pemberley. Then he went to his room. Again.
The next morning Bingley and his other guests arrived. He told him that she was at Lambton. They went, with Georgiana, the same day to visit her. It proved to be a trying afternoon for Darcy back at Pemberley. Miss Elizabeth returned Miss Darcy's visit the next morning. He stopped in with the other gentlemen to see her, and inevitably, after her departure, he required solitary reflection, in his room. “It is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance.”
The next day she was to dine at Pemberley. He eagerly anticipated her visit. But nevertheless rode to Lambton alone to see her even though he knew it would make for another trying day. But he found her upset. Her sister had run off with Wickham! She had to go away. He was bereft of her again. “I will not torment you with vain wishes.”
He left for London the next morning. He found her sister. He paid off Wickham. He attended the wedding. He was, during this time period, so distracted, so preoccupied with his urgent business, that he found himself under tolerably good regulation without too much effort. After his business was concluded, he had to go back to Pemberley, but within a few weeks, he returned to Hertfordshire with Bingley.
He went to Longbourn twice; once for a short morning visit and once for dinner. Bingley would wait for the third morning before calling. His former eagerness had somehow been replaced by moderation and reticence. It was, of course, owing to Darcy's own interference in Bingley's affairs; and now his sins were visited back on him in his impatience to see Miss Elizabeth again. He did see her and he had learned to welcome the inevitable consequence of their meeting. At dinner a few days later, he could not get near her all evening, which was probably just as well. She did pour him coffee. He generally preferred tea, but she had been presiding over the coffee pot. He brought his coffee cup back himself in an effort to get near her, but they only exchanged a few words. After that, he found he had better stay in another part of the room attempting to remain under good regulation.
Darcy returned to London for ten days. He could not act until Bingley had secured the hand of Miss Bennet and in the interim, he was safer in London. He received a letter from Bingley announcing his engagement. About a week later, he received a call from his aunt, Lady Catherine. To his astonishment, she had gone to see Miss Elizabeth Bennet to confront her about a rumor of his own engagement to her. Lady Catherine recounted their conversation. Miss Elizabeth had refused to agree never to marry him. She had spoken of the advantages which a marriage to him would bring. Surely, Lady Catherine's impertinence had provoked her wit in opposition, but she had not given the promise demanded of her. He had hope. Hope! Her fine eyes smiled on him in his imagination that night, and he had not even seen her in ten days! “Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”
He returned to Hertfordshire. He called at Longbourn with Bingley. They went for a walk. She thanked him for finding her sister and bribing Mr. Wickham to marry her. Miss Elizabeth Bennet's affections and wishes had changed. She accepted him. She loved him! He expressed his heartfelt delight while with her; and when alone that night, he rejoiced again and again. “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”
Darcy, remained in Hertfordshire until his wedding day and, consequently, returned to a daily schedule. But he did not mind. He was in the middle before he knew he had begun. And, after giving the matter due consideration, he drew the rather convenient conclusion that a more frequent schedule was not incompatible with being under good regulation. “The moral will be perfectly fair.”
At last Mr. Darcy's wedding day arrived. After the ceremony he traveled with Mrs. Darcy to his home in London. At bed time he went to her room where he had no need to rely on his imagination. And at the critical moment, the name that escaped him was not, “Mrs. Darcy,” at all; rather it was just “Elizabeth.” He was never under good regulation again.