Note and Spoiler Alert: For those who have read The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, you will be familiar with the character of Mr. Nesbitt. If you have not read the story, but plan to do so, you might want to delay reading this vignette as it contains a spoiler.
What Shall I Call You, Mr. Darcy
On a summer’s day with temperatures perfect for walking and wispy clouds skirting the treetops, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth were strolling along the wagon road between the Bennet and Lucas properties. Joining them were Mary and her suitor, Mr. Nesbitt, who had become a regular fixture at Longbourn, as he often chose to work from the Meryton office of Mr. Philips, Mary’s uncle and fellow solicitor, so that he might be nearer to his sweetheart.
Even though Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding was just three weeks hence, Darcy had grown restless waiting for the actual day to arrive, especially since his friend, Charles Bingley, had exchanged vows in the village church with Jane Bennet a month earlier. Being a witness to their domestic felicity at Netherfield Park had only served to increase his eagerness to wed. If he had had his way, Elizabeth and he would have married as soon as she had accepted his proposal as he had been prepared to purchase a special license allowing them to marry immediately. But when Elizabeth had rejected that idea, he had hoped to stand before the vicar as soon as the three weeks of announced banns had passed. Once again, his hopes were dashed as Elizabeth had insisted on a longer courtship. She pointed out that for most of their acquaintance they had been more like sparring partners than lovers. With no rebuttal to her argument, he had agreed to a six-week courtship, and this walk, along with the accompanying chaperones, was part of that bargain.
As a celebration of their impending nuptials, Darcy had been prepared to order a new carriage for their wedding and to shower his betrothed jewels and flowers, but Elizabeth being Elizabeth had thanked him for his offer but had said that she would prefer love letters and poetry to pearls and bouquets.
“Elizabeth, unlike Bingley, I am not very good at this courtship business. I have gone through reams of paper in a failed attempt to write so much as a couplet. The only word that rhymes with ‘love’ is ‘dove,’ and I could not force my hand to write it. Nor do I know how to coo and fawn, and whispering endearments is so far removed from my true nature that the words would sound like silver falling on stone.”
“Maybe if you didn’t think of courtship as a business, Mr. Darcy, you might fare better. And, by the way, 'above' rhymes with love."
Ignoring her comment about his rhyming deficiency, he said, “Mr. Darcy! Mr. Darcy! We are shortly to embark on a life together, and yet you continue to call me Mr. Darcy.”
“Then what shall I call you? I agree that Mr. Darcy is too formal, but Will might be too familiar. Fitzwilliam is too long, and William would put me in mind of the Duke of Clarence and Mrs. Jordan and all of those children. So that leaves Fitz.”
Darcy laughed and shook his head. He had fallen in love with a woman with a sharp wit and no fear of using it. “I would prefer to be called, ‘Hey, Mister,’ than to be called Fitz, as I am sure you know. And what shall I call you? Elizabeth, Eliza, Lizzy, or maybe Liz?”
“Not Eliza as that was how I was often addressed by Miss Bingley. As for Liz, I associate that name with the ladies outside Covent Garden who wait for the gentlemen to come out of the Opera. My preference would be for Elizabeth in public and Lizzy in private, but you have not said what I should call you.”
“Those who love me call me Will.”
“You should have said that sooner as I do love you dearly.”
“You need not wait for the wedding. When we are alone, I would ask that you call me Will,” and looking over his shoulder at Mr. Nesbitt and Mary, he continued, “But we are never alone, are we? We cannot walk down this lane without one of your sisters walking behind us. Do they fear that I shall drag you off into the bushes if we are unsupervised?”
“As you well know, a woman’s reputation is fragile, and society demands that an unmarried woman must be chaperoned. Would you allow Georgiana to walk out with a man alone?”
“Certainly not!” and seeing the hypocrisy in his statement, he added, “But then she is but seventeen, and her character is still being formed.”
“So when she is, say twenty-one, you will allow her to walk down the lane with a man who is neither husband nor relation?”
“If, when she reaches her twenty-first birthday, she is still unmarried, I will consider it.”
“Before saying ‘no’ to her request,” Lizzy said, laughing.
“But we are not speaking of Georgiana, but of you, a woman of impeccable reputation, who I would very much like to kiss. However, since your sister is but fifty feet behind us, that is not possible.”
“You should have planned better. Next time, be sure that our chaperones are in front of us, so that if you do wish to steal a kiss, they would not know of it.”
Instantly, Darcy came to a complete stop and waited for Mr. Nesbitt and Mary to catch up to them.
“Mr. Nesbitt, I think we have been unfair to you. You are a tall fellow, and I would imagine you are someone who takes long strides and here Miss Elizabeth and I are walking at a snail’s pace. Please, go ahead so that we do not keep you from enjoying a vigorous walk on this beautiful day,” and he stepped aside allowing the pair to pass.
“That is very generous of you, Mr. Darcy,” Mr. Nesbitt replied. “I must confess that I am a brisk walker, and I find that Miss Mary easily keeps pace with me,” which was quickly demonstrated as the distance between the two couples lengthened.
When only a blur from Mary’s blue dress was visible, Lizzy said with a smile in her voice, “You are a man who is used to having his way and very clever at getting it, I might add.”
After removing his hat, Mr. Darcy said, “I believe that we were talking about a kiss, Lizzy, were we not?”
After placing her hands on his chest and standing up on her toes, Lizzy whispered, “Yes, Will. Indeed, we were.”
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