Fortuitous Misunderstanding

Title: Fortuitous Misunderstanding
Author: ExcentrykeMuse

Fandom(s): Pride & Prejudice
Pairing(s): Elizabeth/Darcy, (not really) Elizabeth/Mr. Collins, Mary/Mr. Collins
Wordcount: 1k
Rating: PG
Written: 6 March, 2023

Warning(s): marriage without love
Prompt: for Shelby666 who loved “Coffeehouse” (p&p)

Fortuitous Misunderstanding

Elizabeth Bennet was trying desperately to escape from Mr. Collins.  He was perhaps suitable in that he was to inherit the estate, but he was not suitable in countenance, mind, or sense.  Elizabeth knew her mother supported the match, and she knew her father would not hinder it.  That morning, before the sun had risen, she had taken to the road toward Meryton, hoping to miss breakfast completely.  The night before had been the night of the Netherfield Ball.  Mr. Collins had not proposed then, but surely he would propose soon, if not that very morning.

Pulling her skirts up from the mud, she saw the hamlet in the distance along with a coach.  She thought little of the latter, but instead cut across the field away from it.  She did not notice the two riders that accompanied it or, indeed, the lone rider that peeled away from the carriage and changed direction entirely in order to pursue her.

“You are in a contemplative mood this morning,” the solemn voice of Mr. Darcy broke her concentration as she stared through the windows of the bookseller.  Not initially having a direction for her walk, she had failed to bring any money, and so it would be disingenuous to go in or even browse.

Elizabeth looked up and gaped at Mr. Darcy.

His gaze was severe, as was his wont.  His gaze, after all, was always severe.

“I see the party spirit has not prevented you from an early morning ride,” she quipped, noticing his fine black horse tied in the town square. 

His severe gaze hardened if that were even possible.

She wished to no longer be conversing with Mr. Darcy.  In fact, if she never saw his face again, it would not be too soon.

“Let me make a conjecture, although it may be indiscrete,” he said instead, and she turned back to him, “your mother soon expects you to be engaged, but you prefer the out of doors.”

Embarrassment coursed through Elizabeth that he should know the situation so plainly, and she could feel red hot anger suffuse her cheeks.  “That, Mr. Darcy, is none of your concern,” Elizabeth snapped.

He regarded her steadily and did not apologize.  “What if I should make it my business?”

She looked at him.  “I beg your pardon?”

Darcy, again, looked at her for a long moment as if considering.  “What if you were otherwise engaged?”

The idea startled her and she did not quite grasp his meaning.  “Otherwise engaged?”

“It could not have escaped your notice, Miss Bennet, my deep admiration for your character.”  The words were simple, firm, and in his steady and completely dispassionate voice she was all too familiar with.

Elizabeth simply stared at Mr. Darcy, completely bewildered.

He seemed to take this as an invitation to continue.  “You have, of course, heard rumors of my wealth.  Let me assure you that my fortune has been greatly underestimated by the populace of Meryton and Pemberley is a most prosperous estate—”

Could the man possibly be more disagreeable?  Then, the man who truly had her affections crossed her mind.  It was Wickham who should be standing here offering for her.  However, it was not.  Wickham did not even come to the ball the previous night even though he had given her his word that he would be.

She licked her lips, suddenly feeling them go dry.  “What of Wickham?” she asked carefully.

“I understand his debts in Hertfordshire are substantial,” Darcy said as if in agreement, as if they were having an entirely different conversation.  “I own his debts in Derbyshire so as not to embarrass other parties,” his eyes, briefly flitted gold, “and I shall do the same here if it brings you and your family embarrassment.  I fear he will always be a reprobate and a gambler.”

Stunned, Elizabeth could only blink.  She looked away in embarrassment and then murmured, “That will not be necessary.”

The two fell into silence and she could hear his breathing, so close that they were to each other. 

“Well, Miss Elizabeth?” he asked her.  “Will you marry me?”

Her head was in a whirl, and she turned back to him, to a man she hated.  However, he was far from ridiculous.  Could she perhaps one day have pride in this man?  Could she respect him?  He was offering her away out.  Surely, he had earned her gratitude.

“Yes,” she murmured, hardly believing her own ears, “Yes, I will marry you.”

She felt him come closer and his large hand rest on hers, and she fought the flinch that worked its way through her body.  If he noticed, he did not indicate. 

“I shall go to Longbourne,” he told her, “and speak to your father.  You will follow when you have prepared yourself?”

Grateful, she turned her eyes toward him and nodded.  “Yes.  Thank you for your consideration.”

He squeezed her hand once and then was striding toward his horse.  She stood and watched him mount before turning toward her home.

Elizabeth dithered about the town before walking across the fields toward her home.  She knew she took longer than she needed to, but she did not desire to go home. 

What she encountered when she arrived was quite surprising.

“Ten thousand a year!” Mama was exclaiming in the drawing room.  “And Mary to be Mrs. Collins!”  Elizabeth stood in the doorway and took in her mother and sisters, eyes full of questions.  “Oh, my darling!”  Mama greeted, enveloping her in a hug.  “You sly thing.  You never let on that you and Mr. Darcy of Pemberley were to be married!”

“Forgive me, Mama,” she murmured.  “I trust he has come and Papa has agreed.”

“He has come, he has gone, he will be back again,” Mama told her.  “And Mary to be a wife as well!  All is as it should be!”

Elizabeth felt her stomach sink.  Was everything as it should be?  Was it?  Somehow everything seemed even more wrong than it had before she had set off on her walk that morning.  More wrong, indeed.

The End.

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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