Mr. Darcy Doesn’t Exist

Disclaimer: Before I came to England, many of my friends and family members joked that I would find my “Mr. Darcy” in England. Of course, the comments were playful teases, but I heard them so often I believed it could happen. And more than that, I wanted it to.

I’m 21 now. Luckily, that isn’t an “old maid” like it would’ve been in Jane’s time, but it’s fair to say that I see more and more of my Facebook friends getting engaged (and not just as April Fool’s pranks) and many of my own close friends have met the people they will spend the rest of their lives with. I have seen how these relationships make them feel, and how they complete parts of my friends’ lives they didn’t know they were missing. My own parents met in college when they were around my age. Why couldn’t my “dream man” come from the place I’d always dreamed of visiting?

He didn’t. 

It is with a love for England, not for Mr. Darcy, that I visited Chatsworth House, which is used as Mr. Darcy’s house in the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

***

Mr. Darcy doesn’t exist.

Fortunately, Chatsworth does.

I peer through a clouded bus window covered with the dirt of passengers gone by. Specks of misplaced wanderlust, now forgotten and shielding my view. I am not the first to come here, and I won’t be the last.

D1

Even in a dirty haze, the house is a dreamlike beauty that makes my heart beat a little bit faster. The rolling hills. The stately mansion. The light fog rising up from a trickling river. The stuff quintessential British dreams are made of.

I am in England.

There are no signs of the Chatsworth estate’s wealth out here. Just sheep. A steady waterfall. Slippery rocks with glints of rain. A silent brook that makes no almost sound as it trickles slowly. Gardens that stretch 105 acres.

D2

There is a path, but I have no map.

I don’t know what lies ahead.

So I walk heel-toe through the hedges. Rainboots plodding on the gravel paths. Past an elderly couple whose stride is matched and perfected from years of walking beside one another.  Their wrinkly pinky fingers are linked. Past a mother with permanent purple circles under her eyes. She sighs as her toddler’s chubby fingers stretch for a lollipop behind the concessions counter. Past a pair of siblings who pull on each other’s sweatshirt hoods. One trips over a tree branch, and his eyes well up as he starts wailing “Mummy!” with an articulate British accent.

This is England.

D3

I keep going. Further until I enter the edges of the gardens. And further into the silence.

I push a long mossy branch out of my way and keep walking. My rainboots are clunky and my approach is loud. Birds scatter and move to higher and quieter posts. Away from the sound. Away from me.

D4

I walk up a slick slope and temporarily lose my footing. My left hand stops my body from crashing into the hill, and I glance around, an embarrassed blush spreading over my cheeks.

Then I remember. I am alone.

I plod past an abandoned cottage that a single spider has now claimed as his own. I walk down a set of stairs and into a cave once used by miners, now marked by evenly spaced lampposts. Little lights that illuminate a path in the darkness.

D5

My entrance interrupts a private moment shared by a couple. As I squeak towards them, his hand untangles itself from her hair and moves sideways on the damp cave wall to shield her from view. She glances downward, holding her breath while waiting for me, the intruder, to pass. When I leave, their giggles echo down the tunnel and back to me.

I am alone.

I keep going. A little faster now. And then I see it. A wooded area with years-old rocks. A canopy of bare tree branches dangle. There are no birds that scatter. No spiders weaving homey webs. No waterfalls, no brooks, no streams. Just rocks and a windswept silence that is even too caught up in the moment to whisper doubts into my ear.

D6

I sit on a rock. I write. And I write.

A light rain starts to fall and I roll my eyes, but smile inside. It’s an English cliche, but it couldn’t feel more appropriate. The spots look like teardrops on my paper, but I am not sad. I am alone, but not lonely.

Mr. Darcy is not home.

He never will be.

An hour passes and it’s time to walk back past the waterfalls, flowing rivers and grazing sheep. To face the elderly couples, fighting siblings and lovestruck pairs. Past the stroller tracks, spilled ice cream cones and blooming buds. Back to the train and back to London.

D7

I stand up and brush the dirt off my jeans. With the flecks go my illusions and unfulfilled expectations.

Because I did get everything I’ve ever wanted. The hills, the sheep, the rivers, the light rain. The smell of spring. No Mr. Darcy could’ve given me the England I’d always dreamed of seeing. Of feeling a part of. Of breathing in and breathing out. Of knowing that for those few minutes, that rock, that spot, that moment were mine.

D8

I stand up and turn my back on my little writing spot. I don’t look back.

There is a path, but I have no map.

I don’t know what lies ahead.

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