The Other Side of Pride and Prejudice
Racing their horses across the field, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy halted in sight of Netherfield Park.
"It is a fair prospect," said Bingley to his friend, "though nothing to Pemberley I know. But I must settle somewhere."
Darcy looked at the house and thought about it. Compared to his own home of Pemberley, it was rather dull, and the company around it, from what he had seen on his journey, wasn't worth speaking about either.
"Do I have your approval?" asked Bingley.
Mr. Charles Bingley was like that - he never did anything without his friend's approval. Bingley was easily led and unsure of himself. Because of this trait, Darcy took it upon himself to take care of his friend, even to the extent of ordering his life for him.
"You will find the local company somewhat savage," said Darcy.
"Country manners? I think they're charming."
Apart from being easily led, Bingley had an openess of character and easiness in manner that Darcy envied sometimes. Bingley was determined to be pleased with everything and everyone he saw.
"Then you better take it."
"Thank you. I shall."
The recess over, the race continued. Darcy was first distracted by the fleeting sight of someone standing on the hill watching them, but thought little of it and soon pulled ahead of his friend.
Arriving at the entrance to Netherfield House, they were met by a Mr. Morris, who had shown them the surronding area that morning, and was now to be their guide for the house.
Darcy was forced to admit that Netherfield was quite a handsome house. The rooms, if rather small, were done up quite nicely and the grounds were acceptable, though he would choose Pemberley over them any time.
After half an hour, Bingley said, "Mr. Morris, I am extremely pleased with Netherfield. I think I shall take it. What say you, Darcy?"
Darcy looked away from the window and back at Bingley.
"If your mind is made up, I think you will do very well."
"And how long will you be renting it for, sir?" asked Mr. Morris.
"Oh, I don't know. I have no fixed plans. But I hope I will stay for quite a while."
"Very good sir."
They left Netherfield and Hertfodshire that evening for London, to inform Bingley's sisters and brother-in-law of their success.
Bingley semed extremely pleased, and talked of nothing but his hopes for good neighbours, pleasing aquaintances and generally happiness for his time at Netherfield.
Darcy took all this in. His thoughts were on a very different topic, however.
He did not look forward to returning to Pemberley that autumn. No matter how beautiful it was and the company of his sister most delightful, he still felt rather alone. Since Georgiana's near fiasco at Ramsgate, Darcy had become aware, that when Georgiana did marry and leave him, he would be all alone.
Darcy knew that something was missing from his life, but knew not what it was.
"Darcy, would you like to stay with me at Netherfield for a while?" asked Bingley, disturbing his thoughts, "My sisters will be there, as will Hurst."
This invitation was welcome - company, even though Miss Bingley, Mr. and Mrs Hurst weren't the best companions in the country, would be a relief to the loneliness, that was never far from his heart.
"Thank you - I accept your invitation."
"So what do you think?" asked Bingley.
"Of my future neighbours. Mr. Moris told us all about the prominant families in the area, do you not remember?"
"Remind me one at a time."
"There are two main familes, the Lucases and the Bennets. The Lucases reside at Lucas Lodge. The head of the family was made a knight and lives there with his lady and children. The eldest, a daughter by the name of Charlotte Lucas, is twenty seven, rather plain but practical and intelligent. There is another daughter, Maria, pretty but rather empty headed, according to Mr. Morris. There are various other children which he did not talk about."
"And the parents?"
Sir WIlliam Lucas is a gentleman, always sees the best in everyone and lavish in his praises. Lady Lucas, said Mr. Morris, is not clever, but I believe she will be as likable as her husband."
I doubt that, thought Darcy, but unwilling to return to the melancholy of his mind, continued the subject. "And the Bennet family?"
"Mr. Morris could not be silent on the subject of this family, so the information he gave is quite extensive."
"And what is so extraordinary about them?"
"The Bennets live at Longbourn, which is about three miles from Netherfield. Mr. Bennet is a man of wit and intelligence and enjoys a good book. Mrs Bennet has a problem with her nerves; whenever she is rather stressed, she takes to her bed. But she has a good heart and loves her family very much."
"And the children? How many sons and daughters?"
"The Longbourn estate is entailed onto a male relative, which is unfortunate, for the consists of five daughters. They are reputed to be the jewels of Hertfodshire as they are all very handsome."
"An over exaggeration, no doubt."
"Come man, there has to be some truth in it. Well, the youngest girl, Miss Lydia is a tall fifteen-year old, pretty and good-humoured. Kitty, seventeen is similar to Lydia to a lesser extent. the third child, Mary is the most accomplished, she studies books, plays the piano and sings."
"Accomplished by country standards, no doubt."
"Elizabeth, age twenty," continued Bingley, ignoring the remark," is the second most beautiful, dark haired and dark eyed. She has a lively, playful disposition and a very good conversationalist, but can be rather taciturn when in deep thought. Rather like you," said Bingley, looking at his companion.
Darcy ignored this. "And the eldest Miss Bennet?"
"Miss Jane Bennet is the beauty of the family, in form and spirit. She has apparently a sweet and mild disposition and sees good in everyone."
"Much like you, Bingley."
"Yes, like me," said Bingley, smiling.
"Are they all out?"
"I believe so."
"That is quite singular. The eldest are not married and yet the younger sisters are already out."
"Come now Darcy, just because their elder sisters are not married does not mean that the younger girls cannot enjoy society as well."
Darcy made no answer but thought over this information. Despite all of the praises he had heard of the Miss Bennets, he thought the information was exaggerated and not worth his attention.
All too soon, they arrived at London. Bingley was to return to Hertfodshire in a few days to oversee preparations for his guests, and then return to London to escort the party to Netherfield.
As Darcy and Bingley gave their hats and coats to the servant, Miss Bingley came in to greet them.
This lady was tall, quite handsome and well accomplished. She and her sister were eager to forget that their fortune had been aquired by trade, and in order to rise still higher in the social ladder and to burn all bridges between her and her past, Miss Caroline Bingley was trying to win Darcy's affections and become his wife.
Darcy sighed inwardly when she entered. She was nothing more to him than the sister of his best friend, and he had no intention of bringing the relationship any further. But no matter how skillfully or politely he deflected all her attempets at securing his attentions, she never took the hint.
Darcy knew that she was not the woman for him. He did not know who was, but he knew without a doubt that it was not Caroline Bingley.
"And how did you find Netherfield, brother?" began Miss Bingley smoothly.
"I found it beyond my expectations. In fact, I was so taken with it, I have agreed to rent it and I hope you will all stay there with me for some time," said Bingley happily.
Miss Bingley's eyes narrowed. "Mr. Darcy, how long did it take for Charles to make up his mind?"
Darcy was a truthful man and though he wanted to spare his friend from one of his sister's lectures, he could not lie about it either.
"I believe it was half an hour."
"Half and hour? Brother, do you remember what I have said about hasty decisions?"
Still caught up in his pleasure of finding such an agreeable house, Bingley said, "Yes, sister dear, I do remember. But I think that Netherfield is stunning, and I know that you will love it."
"Stunning?" repeated Miss Bingley as they walked into the drawing room, "Mr. Darcy, how is it in comparison to Pemberley? I doubt Weatherfield surpasses the beauty of that place."
"Netherfield, Miss Bingley," replied Darcy indifferently. "And though it is nothing to Pemberley, I still admit that it is quite a delightful place."
"Well then," said Miss Bingley with a self-satisfied smile, "If it is as you say so, Mr. Darcy, then I believe that Netherfield must be so."
Darcy did not answer. Miss Bingley's ploys, agreeing with him, pretending to share his interests and such were all too transparent.
Bingley returned to Netherfield some days later. The servants had already settled in and Mr. Bingley and his guest were to follow before Michaelmas.
Bingley's absence left Darcy to the company of the sisters. Mrs Hurst was simliar to Miss Bingley in character, while Mr. Hurst was an idolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards.
In order to have some respite from such company, Darcy often went into town, buying gifts for his sister. Various pieces of music by composers such as Haydn and Mozart which were in vogue at the moment were some of Georgiana's favourites. For himself, he often went in search of books to add to his library.
When Mr. Bingley returned on September 25, he was full of news.
"Darcy, I have met some of the people. Remember Sir Lucas who I told you about? He came to see me and expressed his delight in seeing someone in possession of Netherfield again. And there is to be a ball soon after our arrival, and we are all invited."
"A ball, given by those country people?" inquired Miss Bingley distastefully, "It cannot be anything of importance in comparison to the ones we have been to here in town."
Darcy met the news with some alarm. He was not easy in company, and had not the pleasure of conversing easily with those he had never met before. And to be in a room full of strangers, who were below his station and he would have no idea as to how he should deal with such people, was rather intimidating. But by the look in Bingley's face, there was no way he could escape the ball. And so he would deal with the situation as he usually did.
In truth, Darcy was rather shy of those he had never met before and did not know. He usualy hid this under a veneer of coldness and aloofness, as protection from any embarassesment.
"I also had the pleasure of making the aquaintance of Mr. Bennet."
"Mr. Bennet?" asked Miss Bingley, "you seem pleased. Why were you so happy that you have met him?"
"His five daughters are the most beautiful girls in Hertfodshire. I was eager to se them, but I could only see the father. But it matters not - no doubt we shall meet them at the Meryton assembly."
Darcy feverently hoped Bingley would not fall in love with any of the famous Miss Bennets. Bingley fell in and out of love very quickly - one day he would declare he could not live without a sight of a Miss so-and-so, and he would have forgotten her by next week. Bingley continually formed attachments, but never any serious ones, and when the lady in question had lost his affections, she usually ended up most unhappy. Darcy hoped, for the sake of the ladies that Bingley would not form any designs on any of them.
"I somehow dobt, brother, that these Miss Bennets will be as beautiful as any of the London ladies, or surpass the lovely Miss Darcy," said Miss Bingley.
(Another of Miss Bingley's ploys was to continuosly praise his sister.)
Darcy ignored the remark and walked over to the window, and stared at the people passing below.
"Well," said Bingley looking around the room, "shall we leave tomorrow?"
(I can't promise that I can continue this for some time . . . but I'll try!)
Bingley, Hurst and Darcy waited at the bottom of the stairs for the ladies. As usual, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley were taking a long time to prepare themselves for the Meryton assembly.
"Caroline, Louisa, where are you?" called Bingley, "We are already late!"
Amazingly, Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst appeared.
"Come now, Charles," said Mrs Hurst, "we are not that late."
They walked gracefully down the stairs, Miss Bingley complaining all the way.
"I do not see why we have to attend this!" she said. "We only arrived this morning, and we have to attend an assembly full of these country barbarians!"
"Waste of an evening, I say," groweled Hurst.
Darcy did not waste words and breath complaining, but resigned himself to enduring a trial; meeting strangers, young ladies who would look uopn him as their rightful prey, evading meaningless and pointless conversations. If he had a choice, he would not go, but Bingley was adamant upon his coming.
Finally, they got into the waiting carriages and drove off to the Meryton Assembly.
Darcy was not happy about attending something against his will, and was determined to think ill of everything and everyone. Even if he did find the people better than his expectations, his obstinancy would prevent him from admitting it to Bingley, and to himself.
They got out of their carriages outside the Red Lion. Bingley out on his hat and smiled in anticipation. Darcy followed suit, then paused, waiting for the others. He listened to the rather badly played music floating out the window, and the sounds of laughter and dancing inside.
Miss Bingley sidled up behind him and whispered to him, "Shall we be quite safe here, Mr. Darcy, do you think?"
Before he could answer, Mr. Hurst stepped out and said, "Damned silly way to spend an evening."
Darcy agreed with him.
After hanging up their hats and coats, the group went into the room.
The room fell silent for a minute as everyone turned to look. Darcy was glad to be at the back, where he was not so easily seen.
He gazed around the room. There were more people than he felt comfortable with, and the ladies outnumbered the gentlemen, but none of the ladies were anything more than scarcely pretty. His expectations were fulfilled; there was no one here worth talking to, no one here with taste or elegance. He could not wait for the evening to finishm, though it had hardly begun.
A man, balding, plump, with a large smile, walked up to them and introduced himself as Sir William Lucas. He welcomed them all to the neighbourhood, and Darcy listened as Bingley commented that he loved nothing better than a country dance. With that, the music started up again and the next dance began.
Darcy watched as his friend was taken to be introduced to everyone in the room. As the Netherfield party spread out, he was more easily seen, and he soon heard praises about himself - how handsome he was, his large estate in Derbyshire and most importantly, his income of ten thousand a year.
Darcy tried to ignored them, and so that none of his apprehension or disgust would show, put on a mask of snobbishness and rejection.
He followed Bingley to a group of young ladies.
Sir Lucas introduced Bingley to a Mrs Bennet, who flamboyanly curtsied and began to introduce her daughters.
Darcy was curious to see the famous Miss Bennets, but had no intention of dancing with them, or anyone else.
"This is Jane, my eldest," said Mrs Bennet.
The young lady on her left, Darcy was forced to admit, was beautiful. She was tall, with a lovely face, and a sweet smile. If all of her sisters were as beautiful as her, then they would certainly deserve their reputation.
Darcy caught himself approving of her. In an attempt to find some fault in her, he looked at her more closely. In the end, the only fault he could find, was that she smiled too much, but deeply he knew that it wasn't a fault at all.
" . . . and Elizabeth,"
The girl on her mother's right was, to his eyes, a pale shadow of her sister. In comparison, she was rather ordinary. She had dark hair and eyes, an average height, a smile that was tolerable and nothing else extraordinary.
" . . . and Mary, sits there,"
He looked at a rather ugly girl, with bad hair, glasses and a an uninterested look at the scene before her. She was sitting down by the wall and no gentleman appeared interested in asking her to dance.
" . . . and Kitty and Lydia, you see there dancing."
The last two daughters were cavorting around with a number of young men. None were as beautiful as the eldest Bennet girl, and were quite loud and silly.
All in all, only Jane lived up to the family's reputation of possessing the jewels of the country. The second was scarcley pretty, the third was plain, bordering on ugly and the last two were nothing extraordinary either.
Bingley, with no surprise, claimed Miss Jane for the next dance.
Mrs Bennet asked Bingley about Darcy. Bingley introduced him to the Bennets. Darcy did not want to be introduced to them, but he could not escape the greeting.
Darcy suddenly found himself addressed by Mrs Bennet, who asked if he too, was fond of dancing.
He did not like Mrs Bennet, her high pitched voice and continous talking got on his nerves.
"No, I hardly ever dance."
"Well let this be one of the occasions; for I'll say you'll never seen such lively music, or such pretty partners."
In an effort to distance himself from them, Darcy curtly bowed and left. As he walked away, he heard Mrs Bennet rudely insulting him on his bad manners.
Darcy did not care - he cared nothing for such people, did not know how to talk to them, found no elegance or taste and was appalled by their manners. But still, what could one expect from such . . . . barbarians?
The dance ended and Darcy watched as Bingley and Miss Jane went down the dance. Darcy hoped his friend would not fall in love with the girl, but it seemed that Bingley's opinion of her was high, for he introduced her to his sisters.
As the night progressed, so did every one's bad opinion of him. Darcy ignored it all, and walked about the room. Once he sat down, but found himself being addressed by a Mrs Long. He shortly answered her and left.
There was a clock on the wall, and Darcy kept looking at it, impatient for this to be over.
Darcy paused as Bingley left the dance for a moment to talk to him.
"Come Darcy, I must have you dance," said he with a happy smile. "I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance."
Darcy sighed inwardly. He had no intention of dancing.
"`I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner."
This was true - Darcy had never forgotten one particular ball, some years ago, when, after being teased by his friends, asked a young lady, of whom he knew only her name and relations, for a dance. At the time, he was not a good dancer, and it was the only dance he had danced all evening. Because he had danced only with her, Miss Caroline Bingley was convinced that Darcy found her attractive and, since then, had chased him in a vain attempt to be his wife.
Though time had given grace and majesty to his dancing, it had not improved his shyness or wariness in asking ladies for dances.
"At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable."
At this assembly, there were no people of his social circle. He did not know any of them, he would normally have nothing to do with them.
"Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with."
In truth, it was also a punishment to stand up with Bingley's sisters, but at least one was married and therefore could not try to snare him, and it was better to put up with one lady, of his social circle, who was desiring his attentions than with more, including those who were lower than his station.
"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Bingley, "for a kingdom! Upon my honour I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life, as I have this evening; and there are several of them, you see, uncommonly pretty."
Of course you have, thought Darcy. And none of the ladies are worth the praise of beautiful, except the eldest Miss Bennet.
"You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room," said Darcy, nodding towards the lady of whom he had been thinking.
"Oh! she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you."
Oh no, groaned Darcy inwardly. Now Bingley is trying to set me up with one of them.
But it was more than that - as Bingley's superior, he should be dancing with Miss Jane, not Bingley. And to add to the insult, Bingley was offering him the less attractive sister. It was the principle of it, and he wasn't even going to consider the sister.
"Which do you mean?"
He turned to see Miss Elizabeth, sitting beside her sister Mary and looking at him with an expression of amusement.
Hiding his disgust, he said coldly, "She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me."
Thankfully Bingley took his advice.
Darcy then observed the second Miss Bennet rise from her seat and walk towards a group of girls, whom he presumed to be her friends. As she passed him she gave him a look.
Darcy was used to looking like that at other people, but was not used to being looked at like that himself. He stared after her as she whispered something to a girl he remembered as Miss Lucas. They looked at him then they both laughed.
He turned away so they would not see him blushing. Miss Elizabeth's actions were most strange; she was the first woman he had seen who had laughed at him instead of trying to win his affections.
He shook himself and forgot about her. Then he decided to take Bingley's advice after all. He asked Mrs Hurst to dance.
Thankfully, Mrs Hurst had an energetic tongue, and he didn't have to say anything except make noises of agreement. Unfortunately, Mrs. Hurst could talk of nothing but her sister's accomplishments and advantages.
When the dance ended, he asked Miss Bingley to dance.
If Mrs. Hurst could talk of nothing but her sister, Miss Bingley could say nothing but praise himself, his sister and his estate. Darcy ignored her.
For this dance, Bingley had asked for Elizabeth to dance with him. As Darcy and Miss Bingley passed Elizabeth, he happened to look at her.
She had an amused look on her face, as if she knew what was going on between him and his partner. This too, was singular, as most ladies would be jealous and disappointed that Darcy was dancing with someone else. But this lady did not care, but looked at him again, in the same way she had moments ago.
It was most curious, and he pondered over it for the rest of the evening.
Finally the ball ended, too late in Darcy's opinion, but not late enough for Bingley.
The Netherfield party sat in the drawing room for tea before bed. Darcy stood by the fire, eager to get to his bed.
"And so none of the Hertfordshire ladies could please you, Mr.. Darcy? Not even the famous Miss Bennets?"
"Well, I never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls in my life," said Bingley before Darcy could react.
"Bingley, you astonish me," Darcy said. "I saw little beauty and no breeding at all. The eldest Miss Bennet is, I grant you, very pretty."
"A fine concession," Bingley replied in a slight miffed tone. "Come, man. She's an angel."
"She smiles too much."
"Oh, Jane Bennet is a sweet girl. But the mother!" said Miss Bingley in a shocked tone, "I heard Eliza Bennet described as a famous local beauty. What do you say to that, Mr.. Darcy?"
Darcy realised that Miss Bingley was more observant than he thought. She had noticed his curiosty about the girl.
But there was nothing wonderful about her, certainly nothing to her sister.
"I should as soon call her mother a wit."
"Oh, Mr.. Darcy, that's too cruel!" laughed Miss Bingley.
"Darcy, I shall never understand why you go through the world determined to be displeased with everything and everyone in it," said Bingley, joining him by the fire.
Darcy thought over this for a moment. Since Georgiana's near escape last summer, Darcy had become more wary and suspicious of other people, and so alienated many he met before he could learn more about them in an effort to protect himself and Georgiana from any others who might hurt them.
Wickham, had been a close friend in times past. If a friend could wish such harm to them, what would a stranger do?
"And I shall never understand why you are in such a rage to approve of everything and everyone that you meet," replied Darcy.
"Well, you shall not make me think ill of Miss Bennet, Darcy." Bingley sighed and walked away.
Oh no, thought Darcy, he's falling in love with her.
"Indeed, he shall not. I shall dare his disapproval and declare she is a dear, sweet girl, despite her unfortunate connections, and I should not be sorry to know her better," said Miss Bingley from her seat.
"No. No, nor I. You see, Mr.. Darcy. We are not afraid of you," added Mrs Hurst.
"I would not have you so," said Darcy.
He wondered why he said that. He did not know.
Mr. Hurst woke from his slumber long enough to say, "What? Very true. Damn tedious waste of an evening."
Darcy soon left to his bedchamber
That night, as he lay in bad, he found his thoughts wandering to the Bennets.
Mrs Bennet, the less said of her the better.
Lydia, Kitty and Mary are nothing.
Jane is, from what I have seen, sweet, mild and beautiful. But time will tell if she will remain so.
And Elizabeth . . .
He wondered what was the meaning behind the look she had given him. He was completely puzzled.
Forget her, he thought angrily.
She is of no consequence. She will be of no importance in your life!
He fell asleep.
Over the next fortnight, the Netherfield party saw one or other of the Bennets five times.
Darcy came down one morning to find the two eldest Miss Bennets and their mother visiting Bingley and his sisters. He said a polite greeting then walked to the window, from where he could observe the scene unfolding in front of him.
Bingley began talking to Jane, and soon Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst joined him. Miss Bingley and Miss Bennet seemed to get along quite well, and soon began to call each other by their first names.
Mrs Bennet would not keep quiet and Darcy did his best to ignore her and her not-so subtle comments on his behaviour at the Meryton Assembly. He cared not what she thought, but the woman was getting on his nerves. She rambled on about the wonders of Netherfield, and praised Mr. Bingley and his sisters to the skies, and reminded Bingley of his saying that he would hold a ball at Netherfield.
Darcy turned his attention to Miss Elizaberth, who stood and wathced her sister conversing with her new friends. She frowned as she observed the Bingley sisters.
He looked at her closely, still trying to determine the meaning behind the look she had given him at the assembly. But he could find no inspiration.
His opinion of her had not changed. She was still only tolerable. There was hardly a good feature in her face, her figure was not perfect and she had quite a sharp tongue, he noticed in her playful, teasing comments.
She at least, had the sense to be embarrassed by her mother's behaviour, and sometimes looked as if she wanted to be far away.
Darcy took no Part in any of the conversations, and thankfully, Miss Bingley did not talk to him either. He kept his position, and watched everything with a critical eye. After a while, he saw Miss Elizabeth glance at him, raise her eyebrows and smile.
He got the distinct impression she was still laughing at him.
Miss Bingley had extended an invitation to the eldest Miss Bennets to dinner, and this dinner took place two days later.
Whether by accident or design, Jane had sat to Bingley's left, with the sister beside her, and Hurst beside the sister.
Darcy found himslef in between Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst, and across from Miss Elizabeth.
As the dinner progressed, Darcy added another criticism to his list. He found that Miss Elizabeth's manners were not those of the fashionable world; at times he thought they were downright impertinent.
Music was called for after dinner, and when Jane was asked to perfoem, she replied that she did not play or sing. Darcy saw that Miss Bingley sniggered. Miss Elizabeth seeing this asked if she could hear Miss Bingley play, and the lady complied.
She performed quite admirably, but he privately thought that his sister was still the better. Miss Bingley concluded with a smile towards him and said, with false modesty, that Miss Darcy was the most wonderful perfowmer, and that she was nothing to her. As if to show her perfection in playing, she requested that Miss Elizabeth to entertain them with a song.
Darcy listened with a critical ear. In comparison to his sister, Miss Elizabeth was by no means capital, but her unaffected playing was enjoyable to listen to.
"So, what do you think of them, Mr. Darcy?" asked Miss Bingley, that night after their guests had departed.
"I confess that the eldest Miss Bennet is quite pretty, with the deportment of a lady of rank," he replied. That night he had finally conceeded that Jane was a wonderful lady, and he could see why Bingley was taken with her.
Mr. Bingley looked pleased with Darcy's opinion.
Looking at his friend, Darcy decided to let things run its course. In time, Bingley will forget the girl, and so there was no need to interfere.
"I must say that I find Miss Eliza quite . . . insolent at times," mused Miss Bingley. She looked at him, as if she was worried that she might have a rival for his affections. No doubt she had noticed his preoccupation with her.
Miss Bingley did not need to worry.
"She has hardly a good feature in her face, though her manners are not as you would describe them, they are sometimes not what I would cal polite."
Miss Bingley looked content.
That night, he wondered why he was taking so much of an interest in the second Miss Bennet. He realised that she was an intriguing creature, and . . . . . different to other ladies he knew.
Mrs Bennet had been very eager to have them all over for a dinner at Longbourn, and so the Bennet's visit was returned.
This was also the first time they had met Mr. Bennet. Darcy looked at the man and decided that he was a person of sense and intelligence. Soon after the dinner (Mrs Bennet had placed Bingley beside Jane), Mr. Bennet had retreated to his library, which Darcy could approve of. He did not approve of the way Mr. Bennet teased his wife with sarcastic remarks, which she was too ignorant to understand, though Darcy did admit he found it quite amusing. Nor did he approve of the fact that Mr. Bennet refused to rein in the wildness of his two youngest daughters.
The youngest, Miss Lydia, if he remembered correctly, behaved in a way he found shocking. She would shout across the room or whisper in the corners to her sister Catherine and laugh, or interrupt while people were talking. Nor was her conversation worth listening to - all she could speak of were the officers of the militia that had encamped in Meryton.
Throughout the evening, he had said little, but spent the time looking at Miss Elizabeth. Being so different from ladies like Miss Bingley, she was a puzzle.
"Will we see you at the Lucas Lodge party, Mr. Bingley?" asked Mrs Bennet.
"Yes, I wouldn't miss it for the world. It will be wonderful to meet those of whom I made an aqauintance with at the assembly," replied Bingley.
"And I do hope that we shall see you dance, sir," added Mrs Bennet.
"Ah, of course," she repeated, "Unlike others, you enjoy the pastime and do not think it beneath you to dance with those who are not of your position," said Mrs Bennet, with a significant look towards Darcy.
Darcy, again ignored her. He was looking at Miss Elizabeth's face.
He was forced to acknowledge that her face was actually, quite pretty, especially by the expression of her dark eyes, which made her seem quite intelligent. With her dark hair, she seemed the opposite of her sister, especially with her easy, playful disposition in comparison to Jane's quiet and sweet temper.
They left soon after. Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst laughed over the behaviour of the Bennets, but amended their criticisms with praises of the eldest daughters.
As he rode beside the carriage, Darcy observed Miss Elizabeth running out of the house to pick flowers in the garden.
Her figure may not be perfect, but I admit it is light and pleasing, thought Darcy. And she has great wit and intelligence; she is a very interesting conversationalist.
Darcy began to wish to know more of her, and almost looked forward to the party at Lucas Lodge. Almost, but not quite.
Darcy entered Lucas Lodge with some feeling of trepidation.
Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst kept to themselves talking quietly. Sometimes someone would talk to them, but their responses were not encouraging to extend the conversation further. Bingley, with no surprise, attached himself to Miss Jane Bennet and there he stayed for most of the evening. Mr. Hurst attached himself to the punch bowl.
There were a number of officers from the regiment stationed in Meryton. Darcy found little of interest in them, but rolled his eyes at the way the officers flirted with the young ladies.
Some young ladies seemed to enjoy and encourage their attentions. Darcy watched as Miss Lydia Bennet caroused about with her sister Kitty, as she liked to be called, and some of the Lucas children. Mary sat at the piano playing a concerto, one of his favourites but the performer was enough to put him off it.
Darcy spent the evening walking about the room, speaking little, only if someone addressed him. The only source of pleasure he found that evening was while studying Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.
He walked closer to her as she was conversing with the colonel of the regiment, who seemed like quite an agreeable man, though his wife was much like Lydia and not worth listening to. Miss Lucas was also present, but her attention did not seem to be on the conversation. She was looking at him - not as if she admired him, but as if she had noticed something about him, or his actions.
Darcy listened to their conversation. Though the topic was not interesting, about the officers giving a ball, it was made interesting by Elizabeth's playful teasing. Suddenly, the lady addressed him.
"Did not you think, Mr.. Darcy, that I expressed myself uncommonly well just now, when I was teazing Colonel Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?"
"With great energy; but it is a subject which always makes a lady energetic," said he, trying to find a way to answer her and coming up with a rather dull reply.
"You are severe on us," replied the lady, smiling at him with sparkling eyes.
"It will be her turn soon to be teazed," said Miss Lucas. "I am going to open the instrument, Eliza, and you know what follows."
"You are a very strange creature by way of a friend! always wanting me to play and sing before any body and every body! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been invaluable, but as it is, I would really rather not sit down before those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best performers," she said with another of those indecipherable glances at him. On Miss Lucas's persevering, however, she added, "Very well; if it must be so, it must." And gravely glancing at Darcy, she said, "There is a fine old saying, which every body here is of course familiar with, 'Keep your breath to cool your porridge, and I shall keep mine to swell my song.'"
Mary let her elder sister play, but was obviously eager to play herself.
He listened to Elizabeth. Technically, she needed practise, but her easy playing was enjoyable to listen to. When she had finished, he sighed and watched as Mary sat back on the piano seat.
Darcy leaned on the mantle, dimly aware that Sir William Lucas was addressing the Bingley sisters. He looked towards Miss Bennet. Her eyes were rather captivating, he acknowledged.
His attention was diverted by Lydia crying out to her sister mary to play a dance. "Mary! Mary, play something jolly, we want to dance!"
"But there's still two movements! Mama. Mama! Tell them it isn't fair!" protested Mary.
How rude of the girl, interrupting her sister, thought Darcy with disgust.
"Oh, play a jig, Mary. No one wants your concertos here," Mrs. Bennet said. She had been gossping with some of the older ladies, no doubt about her hopes for Miss Jane and Bingley.
Sir William said something to the girl and she reluctantly agreed to play a dance, though it gave her little pleasure.
Lydia didn't seem to care, but ran to the dance floor with her sister Kitty and two Lucas children. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode of passing the evening, to the exclusion of all conversation.
Darcy looked towards Elizabeth. She was speaking to Miss Lucas. From their continuous looks towards Bingley and Jane in the corner, he deduced who they were speaking of.
Suddenly, they looked towards him. Miss Lucas looked meaningfully at him, then spoke to Miss Bennet. He hoped they had not noticed his observations of the lady.
He found himself being addressed by the host of the party, Sir William Lucas.
"What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies."
Darcy groaned inwardly. He did not enjoy dancing.
"Certainly, Sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance," he coldly replied, hoping the man would take the hint and leave him in peace.
Sir William only smiled. "Your friend performs delightfully;" he continued after a pause, on seeing Bingley join the group; "and I doubt not that you are an adept in the science yourself, Mr.. Darcy."
The man must be rather thick-skinned, thought Darcy. Still what can one expect from such a society?
"You saw me dance at Meryton, I believe, Sir."
Go away, thought Darcy.
"Yes, indeed, and received no inconsiderable pleasure from the sight. Do you often dance at St. James's?"
Darcy had noticed that Sir William seemed to be obssessed by St James, and never wasted an oppurtunity to speak of it.
He watched the group dancing, thinking how tiring and wasteful dancing was.
"Do you not think it would be a proper compliment to the place?" said Sir William.
"It is a compliment which I never pay to any place, if I can avoid it."
"You have a house in town, I conclude?"
Oh, please just be quiet and go away.
"I had once some thoughts of fixing in town myself, for I am fond of superior society; but I did not feel quite certain that the air of London would agree with Lady Lucas."
Darcy had to agree with him. Not that the air of London was disagreeable, but that a country estate was more pleasing than London.
By now, he was tired of listening to the man, and decided not to answer. Then he saw Miss Elizabeth walking in the direction of the dancers, and Sir William walking after her and saying, "My dear Miss Eliza, why are not you dancing? Mr.. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure, when so much beauty is before you."
Mr. Darcy, who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling to receive it. He thought the lady would accept him but he was even more intrigued by her when she gracefully declined. He tried to shake her resolve, as did Sir William but she was determined. She left them with an arch look towards Darcy.
Thankfully Sir William also left, and Darcy was about to settle to watch Miss Bennet, but Miss Bingley sidled up to him and said, "I can guess the subject of your reverie."
Angry at being interrupted in his observations, he said, "I should imagine not."
"You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this manner in such society; and indeed I am quite of your opinion. I was never more annoyed! The insipidity and yet the noise; the nothingness and yet the self-importance of all these people! What would I give to hear your strictures on them!"
No doubt you would, he thought to himself.
"Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow."
Normally, he would not let his thoughts known to anyone, least of all Miss Bingley, but he was so content to watch a certain lady, he let his guard drop.
"And may one dare ask, whose are the eyes which have inspired these thoughts?"
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
Too late, he realised his mistake in letting that name drop from his lips.
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet!" repeated Miss Bingley. "I am all astonishment. How long has she been such a favourite? and pray when am I to wish you joy?"
Darcy tried to correct his mistake, unsuccessfully.
"That is exactly the question which I expected you to ask. A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment. I knew you would be wishing me joy." And anyway, continued his thoughts, who says I am thinking about proposing to the girl? I merely admire a pretty woman, I would never disgrace myself with an alliance with such a person!
"Nay, if you are serious about it, I shall consider the matter is absolutely settled. You will have a charming mother-in-law, indeed; and, of course, she will always be at Pemberley with you."
He rolled his eyes. But he was definately NOT thinking of matrimony to anyone, not Miss Bingley or Miss Bennet, so her words had little effect.
Miss Bingley soon left. Darcy thought back and believed that maybe the conversation had had some advantages. If Miss Bingley believed that he was falling in love with Miss Elizabeth, he wouldn't detach her from that notion.
He would pretend to keep admiring Elizabeth, and then Miss Bingley would leave him alone.
Of course he wouldn't really fall in love with Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Of course not!!
He wondered why he was so determined on that last thought. Almost, as if wanted to deny something . . . .
In the days following the Lucas Lodge party, Darcy often found his thoughts wandering back to the bright-eyed lady. He did not know the reason for his preoccupation with Miss Elizabeth, and when he tried to think of one, he couldn't.
Bingley had accepted an invitation to dine with the officers of the regiment that evening, but as the gentlemen were about to leave the house, the sky turned dark and they were obliged to take the carriage instead of riding.
It rained quite heavily and Darcy was glad to be inside the carriage, especially when he saw some poor souls having to endure the elements; a farmer running with his drenched coat over his head, a gentleman caught without his umbrella, a lady riding on a horse.
Colonel Forster knew Darcy's cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam as a colleague and was able to give him news on his cousin's whereabouts and doings. Apart from that, most of the officers seemed to enjoy talking about the various ladies of the neighbourhood.
By the time the three gentlemen arrived back at Netherfield, it ws quite dark. Bingley and Hurst went straight indoors, while Darcy remained in the stable to speak with the groom. While he was there, he saw a horse that did not belong in Bingley's stable, and he wondered who had come to Netherfield.
He went into the drawing to see an surprising sight.
Bingley was speaking to his sister quite forcefully, actually berating her. Bingley was usually quite good-humoured and rarely became angry.
"Why on earth did you invite her in such wet weather?" said Bingley angrily.
His sister tried to sooth him.
"The day was quite fine when I sent the invitation. And though she said the carriage was unavailable, I am sure it could have been spared for such a day. Do not worry, I have sent her family a note informing them that Jane will stay the night, and be home in the morning."
"Miss Jane Bennet is here?" asked Darcy.
"Yes," said Miss Bingley. "I invited her here for dinner, but she came on horseback and has caught a slight cold. She has rooms for tonight, and I am sure she will be quite well tomorrow."
"But what if she isn't?" said Bingley.
"Then she shall remain here until she is so," Mrs Hurst replied. "It is our fault; we should never have invited her today. But Jane should never have accepted it with such bad weather."
Miss Bingley sniffed disdainfully. "The mother would have made her come through hail and storm."
Miss Bennet was given rooms not far from Darcy's and her coughing kept him from sleep. At first, he was merely annoyed, then as the night progressed and the coughing more severe, he began to worry. He listened, wondering if he should awake everyone else up and summon a doctor.
Finally, he put on a robe and quietly walked to Miss Bennet's room. He opened the door, and looked to see if she was in need of assistance. He waited for some time, until he had assured himself that the invalid was sleeping peacefully then went back to his own bed.
The next morning Miss Bennet had not gotten any better and was too ill to get out of bed. Another note was sent, from Jane to Elizabeth saying that she would be remaining at Netherfield for a period of time.
Having eaten his breakfast early, Darcy decided to walk in the grounds. He walked in the direction of the trees, and was very surprised when he came across Miss Elizabeth Bennet, her hair untidy, bonnet in hand, her shoes and hem of her dress covered in mud. Apart from this, he noticed that her eyes were very bright.
She has walked three miles through he mud on foot and alone?!
"Miss Bennet!" said Darcy in surprise and a little pleasure.
"Mr. Darcy," said Miss Elizabeth, bobbing a curtsey. "I have come to inquire after my sister."
"On foot?" asked he increduously after a slight pause.
"As you see here," she said.
She was not embarrassed at her appearance, Darcy noted, nor did she seem to care what others thought. Seeing Jane was all that she cared about, and Darcy could not help but admire her affection for her sister.
"Would you be so kind as to take me to her?" continued Miss Elizabeth, when Darcy made no reply.
He paused to let her past, then escorted her back to the house.
He was quite happy to see her again.
Her appearance in the breakfast parlour was a great surprise to all. That she should have walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and by herself, was almost incredible to Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley. They recieved their unexpected visitor very politely but Darcy knew the two were privately holding Elizabeth in contempt for her walk. He himself was divided between admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion, and boubt as to the occasion's justifying her coming so far alone.
Bingley himself was very plesed to see her and immedietly asked a servant to see her to Jane's room.
When she left, the analysis of Elizabeth began, mostly by Bingley's two sisters.
"She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellet walker. I shall never forget her appearance. She really looked almost wild."
Darcy took a cup of tea and went to the window.
At least she does something more . . . physical than painting.
"She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the countryside because her sister has a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!"
Perhaps, but I thought it became her very well.
"Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat brother, six inches deep in mud I am absolutley certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it not doing its office."
Yes, I agree that rather ruined her appearance.
Darcy agreed that it was improper for Elizabeth to walk all this way, but he did not like the way the two ladies were criticising her either.
"Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,"said Bingley, "but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well, when she cme into the room. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice."
Of course it did, thought Darcy.
"You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure," said Miss Bingley, "and I am inclined to think you would not wish to see your sister make such a exhibition."
"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone, what could she mean by it?"
Darcy rolled his eyes as Miss Bingley began to exaggerate the whole event out of proportion.
"It seems to me to show an abominable sort of, conceited independence, a most country town indifference to decorum."
"It shows an affection for her sister that is very pleasing," said Bingley.
"I am afraid, Mr. Darcy, that this escapade may have affected your admiration for her fine eyes?" said Miss Bingley in a half-whisper.
Darcy was determined the lady would not get a reaction out of him and said, "Not at all. They were brightened by the exercise." He sipped his tea, and smiled behind it at Miss Bingley's look.
"I have an excessive regard for Jane Bennet, she is really a very sweet girl, and I wish with all my heart that she were well settled. But with such a father and such low connections, I am afraid there is no chance of it," said Mrs Hurst.
"I think I have heard you say, that their uncle is an attorney in Meryton," replied Miss Bingley.
"Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside."
"That is capital. Perhaps we should call, when we're next in town." They both laughed.
Being in trade was not fashionable, and Darcy would have nothing to do with such people other than what was required. But he did not like the hypocrisy of the Bingley sisters, who convieniently forgot their own fortune had been got by trade.
"If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside,"said Bingley, "it would not make them one jot less agreeable."
"But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world," said Darcy, walking away from the window.
Bingley, who was sometimes ruled by his heart rather than his head, was over looking the fact that men of wealth and fashion did not marry women like the Bennet sisters. Yes, the two eldest were agreeable and pretty, but Darcy, who liked to think his head ruled his heart, could see that the inferiority of their connections would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to marry men like himself and Bingley.
The whole company turned as Elizabeth came into the room.
Bingley stood up and inquired after her sister, to which she replied that she was still unwell. "Let me send for Mr. Jones," said Bingley, "And you must stay until your sister is recovered."
Darcy started at this invitation.
"I would not wish to inconvenience you."
Part of him thought he should be annoyed because of this second unexpected intrusion. He thought about how the others were feeling about Miss Elizabeth staying; it would please and help her sister, Bingley is no doubt happy, his sisters look rather worried.
"I should not hear of anything else," insisted Bingley, "I'll send to Longbourn for your clothes directly."
Darcy knew that Miss Bingley and her sister did not like Miss Elizabeth Bennet and he thought it might be better for her not to stay, as staying would expose her to the abuse of the two ladies.
"You are very kind, sir." She smiled.
But then again, Miss Elizabeth's company would be very agreeable to him.
The gentlemen went shooting and were pleased to find that the game at Netherfield was abundant. They returned at dusk with their proofs of marksmanship, most kills being by Bingley who enjoyed the sport. Hurst had taken a flask of drink with him and gradually became intoxicated enough to shoot a tree.
Bingley and Hurst joined Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst in a game of loo, but as Darcy disliked cards and Miss Elizabeth had not yet left her sister's side, he decided to go to the billard room. He removed his coat and began to play.
After some time, he became aware that someone had entered the room.
Darcy looked from his position to see Miss Elizabeth looking at him.
He wanted to say something, but couldn't think of anything. So he gave her a curt bow.
The lady looked at him for a moment then quickly turned and left.
He stared at where she had stood, silently angry that he had not found anything to say to her.
He vented his anger on the red ball, which fell into the pocket.
When the board was clear, Darcy put away his cue and went to the drawing-room. As soon as he entered, Miss Bingley asked him for his help. Hurst slammed down a card and prevented him from saying any more. He walked to where Miss Elizabeth was sitting, reading a book.
This time, he inquired after her sister. She replied that she was feeling a little better, then returned to her book.
"Do you prefer reading to cards?" asked Hurst, looking up from the game, "that is rather singular."
"Miss Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley, "despises cards. She is a great reader and has no pleasure in anything else."
I am sure she takes no pleasure in the misfortunes of others, unlike yourself, thought Darcy as he sat down at the writing table.
"I deserve neither such praise, nor such censure," cried Miss Elizabeth; "I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things."
"In nursing your sister I hope you have pleasure,"said Bingley, "and I hope it will soon be increased by seeing her quite well."
Darcy was surprised at the lady's defense of herself. There were few women who could hold their own in a conversation with Miss Bingley without becoming angered or spiteful, and he admired Miss Elizabeth's ability to do so. He began to write.
'I hope this letter finds you well, and I hope you are now more like yourself; after the incident at Ramsgate you were so withdrawn and melancholy.
'I am quite comfortable here at Netherfield, though I admit I do miss our home. The local company . . .'
"And what do you do so secretly, sir?" interrupted Miss Bingley.
"It is no secret. I am writing to my sister," he replied indifferently.
'. . . is bearable, though if I hear Sir Lucas mention St James again, I might do something harmful to him . . . '
"Oh, dear Georgiana! Oh, how I long to see her? Has she grown much since the spring? Is she as tall as me?" asked Miss Bingley.
'. . . Miss Bingley continues her attentions to me, though I would think that I have been obvious in my indifference to her . . .'
"She is now Miss Elizabeth Bennet's height, or a little taller," replied Darcy, hoping that she would hold her tongue.
"And so accomplished," continued Miss Bingley.
"It is amazing to me," Bingley said, "how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are."
"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?" exclaimed his sister.
' . . . There are two young ladies, sisters in fact, who are interesting. The elder, Miss Jane Bennet is very beautiful and it would seem that Bingley has taken a notice to her . . . '
"Yes, all of them, I think. They sing, they draw, they dance, speak French and German, cover screens and I know not what," replied Bingley.
Darcy shook his head at his friend's simple idea of an accomplished woman. Any woman could attain Bingley's notion of accomplished, and no doubt the average man would be satisfied with that. But Darcy was not average and therefore did not have the average view of an accomplished lady.
"Your list of the common extent of accomplishments," Darcy said, "has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it for no other reason than for netting a purse or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half-a-dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished."
And Georgiana is the most accomplished of them all.
"Nor I, I am sure," agreed Miss Bingley.
' . . . her sister, Miss Elizabeth is rather pretty and is a most interesting and witty conversationalist. She can hold her own against Miss Bingley - which, you must admit, is quite an accomplishment . . . '
"Then you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman," Elizabeth said to him, setting down her book.
He wondered if she was teasing him.
"Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it," he replied, deciding she was not and giving her a direct answer.
"Certainly!" cried Miss Bingley "No one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved."
It seemed that he and Miss Bingley did agree on one thing after all.
But Miss Bingley had left something out of her list that she did not have and Miss Elizabeth did.
"And to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading," said Darcy.
As Miss Elizabeth was sitting there with a book and Miss Bingley with cards, the comment's meaning must be obvious.
' . . . They are both staying at Netherfield at the moment; Miss Jane has a bad cold and Miss Elizabeth is caring for her. They seem to be very close . . . '
"I am not longer surprised at you knowing only six accomplished women," Miss Elizabeth said. "I rather wonder at your knowing any." She returned to her book.
Darcy was so surprised at her answer, he put down his pen, sat back and looked at Miss Elizabeth.
"You are severe upon your sex, Miss Bennet!" objected Miss Bingley.
"I speak as I find," she said.
"Then perhaps you have not had the advantage of moving about in such social circles as we have. I may assure you, however, that there are many such young ladies who can be considered accomplished."
But before, you had said that you too, could only think of six truly accomplished young women, and now you are saying there are many? Darcy smiled at Miss Bingley's inconsistancy.
Hurst called the players back to the game. Miss Elizabeth resumed reading, but Darcy did not continue with his letter.
He kept looking at Miss Elizabeth.
Most women, after being paid a compliment by him would react with blushing and false modesty. But Miss Elizabeth acted as if she had not heard it (which impossible, since she had replied to it), not understood it (which was also not likely, as he knew that she was a sharp young lady), or even more astonishingly, she did not care what he said.
That was the most surprising, but the most likely reason.
If that was true, then Miss Elizabeth was even more intriguing to him than she was before.
She did not flatter him, she hardly spoke to him, she did not accept his compliments. She runs around, she walks three miles by herself, she stands up for herself, is independant in her thinking and she cares not what he or anyone else thought of her.
Darcy looked at her and decided she was more . . . natural compared to the artificial Miss Bingley and other ladies who tried to ensnare him.
A few minutes later, Miss Elizabeth left to see her sister.
As soon as the door was closed on her, Miss Bingley said, "Eliza Bennet is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art."
Miss Bingley's hypocrisy was all too clear to Darcy, and he was angered by it, and the fact she was insulting Miss Elizabeth caused Darcy to say something that Miss Bingley could hardly misunderstand.
"There is a meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable."
And with that, he left for his bedchamber.
He stayed up to continue his letter to Georgiana.
' . . . Miss Jane Bennet is a sweet girl and similar to Bingley in disposition. I believe she is the rare type who sees goodness in everything and everyone and never has anything spiteful to say about any living person.
'I find that Miss Elizabeth is intriguing. Ever since I met her, I have used that word 'intriguing' many times, and always to describe her. She is the first woman I have met who doesn't praise me and pretend to share my interests. In the same room with Miss Bingley, the contrast is very obvious.
'This morning, she walked three miles through the mud and alone to reach here to see her sister. Though I do not think the occasion warranted such action, I must admit the exercise was very good for her. She has very fine eyes and the exertion of the walk made them even brighter than they usually are.
'But as for the rest of their family, the less said the better. Miss Jane caught a cold because she rode to Netherfield in the rain to dine with Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst. Apparently the carriage could not be spared, and so no one would have faulted Miss Bennet for declining the invitation. But her mother, I believe encouraged her to accept it and ride here for the simple reason of seeing Bingley. She is very anxious for a marriage between her daughter and Bingley, but you know how he is with women so she will be disappointed. It would be one of Bingley's greatest mistakes were he to connect himself with such a family. Her father, is an intelligent man who enjoys reading but he also takes pleasure in teasing his wife, which she is too silly to understand.
'There are three yonger sisters. The third is reputed to be the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood (by country standards). I my self have seen no evidence of that. I have heard her play on the pianoforte and I say that it was passable. I have not heard her sing or witnessed further proof of her 'accomplishments'. The fourth and fifth sister are like their mother, frivolous and empty. They can speak of nothing but officers, do nothing but flirt and chase after officers and I have heard no word of sense from either as of yet.
'This morning, Miss Elizabeth walked three miles through the mud and alone to reach here to see her sister. Though I admit the exercise was good for her, (she has very fine eyes and the exertion of the walk made them even brighter than they usually are), I do not think the occasion warranted such an action.
'I shall probably stay here for some time, but I hope to come to London and be with you for Christmas. Give my greetings to Mrs Annesley, Georgiana. I am counting the days until I can escape from this place and can spend time in your company.
'Your loving brother,
Fitzwilliam Darcy '
He sealed the letter and left it on his desk to be posted in the morning. Then he blew out the candle and listened to the gentle murmers of conversation coming from Miss Jane's room, too quiet to understand, but soothing enough to send him to sleep.
The next morning, Darcy took a cup of tea to the window and saw a carriage coming towards the house. A head with a hat on it looked out the window, then disappeared, only to be replaced by two heads with bonnets on them. The identities of the three were soon known when Mrs Bennet's voice was heard, as well as the giggling of her two youngest daughters.
Darcy went out into the hall where he saw a manservant and Miss Elizabeth leading the trio upstairs to the rooms where Miss Jane was residing.
He went into the drawing room where he found Bingley and Mrs Hurst. Darcy sat down in the chair. Bingley standing by the window turned as the door opened to reveal his sister.
"And now the mother," she complained, "Are we to be invaded by every Bennet in the country?" She sat down beside her sister who patted her hand comfortingly.
Though the eldest Bennet girls were a pleasure to have, (the younger sister especially), Darcy hoped Mrs Bennet and her two youngest daughters did not stay for long.
The entrance of Mrs Bennet and three of her daughters saved the group from replying to Miss Bingley's statement. She swept into the room followed by Miss Elizabeth and Miss Catherine and Lydia. Darcy got up off his chair and stood behind Bingley who moved in front of Mrs Bennet.
"Mrs Bennet," Bingley said politely, "I hope you have not found Miss Bennet to be as ill as you may have believed."
"Indeed I have, sir," Mrs Bennet replied. "She is a great deal too ill to be moved. Mr. Jones says we must not think of moving her. We must trespass a little longer on your kindness."
Darcy thought that Mrs Bennet had an ulterior motive. Miss Jane was not in any life threatening danger, and he thought that Mrs Bennet was trying to extend her daughter's stay at Netherfield so that she would spend more time in Mr. Bingley's company.
"Removed! It must not be thought of. My sister, I am sure, will not hear of her removal," said Bingley.
How like you Bingley, thought Darcy. He looked at Miss Bingley. After her brother's remark, she could not gracefully refuse.
"You may depend upon it, madam," she said coldly, "that Miss Bennet shall receive every possible attention while she remains with us."
Darcy could tell Miss Bingley was not pleased. She was probably anxious for Mrs Bennet to leave and take Miss Elizabeth with her.
Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgments.
"I am sure," she added, "if it was not for such good friends I do not know what would become of her, for she is very ill indeed, and suffers a vast deal, though with the greatest patience in the world -- which is always the way with her, for she has, without exception, the sweetest temper I ever met with. I often tell my other girls they are nothing to her."
Miss Elizabeth isn't nothing! Darcy thought defensively. He stopped. Did he really just think that?
"You have a sweet room here, Mr.. Bingley, and a charming prospect over that gravel walk. I do not know a place in the country that is equal to Netherfield. You will not think of quitting it in a hurry I hope, though you have but a short lease."
Darcy was shocked by the woman's vulgarity. Here she was, already looking upon Netherfield as if it were settled that Bingley and Miss Jane were to be married tomorrow! He was appalled and felt sorry for Miss Jane and Miss Elizabeth for having such a mother.
"Whatever I do is done in a hurry," replied Bingley; "and therefore if I should resolve to quit Netherfield, I should probably be off in five minutes. At present, however, I consider myself as quite fixed here."
"That is exactly what I should have supposed of you," said Elizabeth.
"You begin to comprehend me, do you?" cried he, turning towards her.
"Oh! yes - I understand you perfectly."
"I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily seen through I am afraid is pitiful."
Yes, it is pitiful that Miss Bingley's actions are so easily seen through and is causing scorn in some quarters . . . though she is too blind to see it.
"That is as it happens. It does not necessarily follow that a deep, intricate character is more or less estimable than such a one as yours."
Darcy wanted to hear more of Miss Elizabeth's ideas on character but her mother stopped the conversation abruptly.
"Lizzy," cried her mother, "remember where you are, and do not run on in the wild manner that you are suffered to do at home."
"I did not know before," continued Bingley immediately, "that you were a studier of character. It must be an amusing study."
"Yes; but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that advantage."
"The country," said Darcy, "can in general supply but few subjects for such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society."
For with a limited population and in an area where you know the majority of the inhabitants there is less to study than if you were in town, thought Darcy.
"But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever." Darcy thought about that. He thought about many people he knew. Some he imagined would not change - his Aunt Catherine and cousin Anne he was sure would not change. Wickham he was sure would not change in his dissolute habits. Georgiana he hoped would change. Colonel Fitzwilliam he was sure would remain the jovial young man he was. Darcy was sure that he himself would not change. He was quite happy as he was now. "Yes, indeed," cried Mrs. Bennet, offended by his manner of mentioning a country neighbourhood. "I assure you there is quite as much of that going on in the country as in town."
Every body was surprised; and Darcy, after looking at her for a moment, turned silently away and walked to stare out the window. He knew not where he had picked up that habit, but found it useful when deeply contemplating something, when he wanted to shut himself away from a situation or contact with people, and useful in preventing others from seeing what he was thinking in circumstances such as this when he could not trust himself to speak politely to the blasted Mrs Bennet.
Mrs. Bennet, who fancied she had gained a complete victory over him, continued her triumph.
"I cannot see that London has any great advantage over the country for my Part , except the shops and public places. The country is a vast deal pleasanter, is not it, Mr.. Bingley?"
"When I am in the country,'' he replied, "I never wish to leave it; and when I am in town it is pretty much the same. They have each their advantages, and I can be equally happy in either."
"Aye -- that is because you have the right disposition. But that gentleman," continued Mrs Bennet, looking at Darcy, "seemed to think the country was nothing at all."
"Indeed, Mama, you are mistaken," said Miss Elizabeth, blushing for her mother. "You quite mistook Mr.. Darcy. He only meant that there were not such a variety of people to be met with in the country as in town, which you must acknowledge to be true."
At least Miss Elizabeth had the propriety to be embarrassed at her mother's behaviour. She looks as if she wishes herself a thousand miles away.
"Certainly, my dear, nobody said there were; but as to not meeting with many people in this neighbourhood, I believe there are few neighbourhoods larger. I know we dine with four and twenty families."
Darcy refrained from smiling at the woman, who obviously thought twenty-four familes was a lot of people. Behind him, Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst were not so tactful. He could hear their muffled laughter clearly.
Miss Elizabeth, for the sake of saying something that might turn her mother's thoughts and change the subject, now asked her if Charlotte Lucas had been at Longbourn since her coming away.
"Yes, she called yesterday with her father. What an agreeable man Sir William is, Mr.. Bingley - is not he? so much the man of fashion! so genteel and so easy! He has always something to say to every body. That is my idea of good breeding; and those persons who fancy themselves very important and never open their mouths, quite mistake the matter."
Darcy could not mistake the meaning of this remark and remained at the window lest anyone see anger and embarrassment.
"Did Charlotte dine with you?"
"No, she would go home. I fancy she was wanted about the mince pies. For my Part , Mr.. Bingley, I always keep servants that can do their own work; my daughters are brought up differently. But every body is to judge for themselves, and the Lucases are very good sort of girls, I assure you. It is a pity they are not handsome! Not that I think Charlotte so very plain - but then she is our particular friend."
If that is what you say about your friends, I would not wish to hear what you say about those you despise, thought Darcy.
"She seems a very pleasant young woman," said Bingley.
"Oh! dear, yes; but you must own she is very plain. Lady Lucas herself has often said so, and envied me Jane's beauty. I do not like to boast of my own child, but to be sure, Jane one does not often see any body better looking. It is what every body says. I do not trust my own partiality."
It was painfully obvious to Darcy that Mrs Bennet was pushing jane at Bingley. Her inconsistancy with Miss Lucas; first remarking she is not so very plain and then saying she is very plain was not-so-subtle comparisons between her own daughter and Miss Lucas, hoping to convince Bingley that Miss Jane was the best choice.
"When she was only fifteen," rambled on Mrs Bennet, "there was a gentleman at my brother Gardiner's in town, so much in love with her, that my sister-in-law was sure he would make her an offer before we came away. But however he did not. Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were."
"And so ended his affection," said Miss Elizabeth impatiently. "There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!"
"I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love," said Darcy.
Darcy was surprised - he would have thought a lady like Miss Elizabeth would have agreed with him on this subject.
"Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Every thing nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away."
Darcy turned towards her and was about to disagree when the youngest girl - who had been whispering to her sister throughout the visit - came forward.
"Mr. Bingley, did you not promise to give a ball?" asked the girl, "It would be the most shameful thing in the world if you did not keep your promise."
It seemed that the youngest girls had inherited their mother's lack of good sense and propriety.
Bingley, however, did not notice this. "Yes, I did. And when your sister is recovered enough, you shall name the day of the ball.
Darcy silently bemoaned his friend in encouraging the impoliteness of the youngest Bennet girls. It seemed that Miss Elizabeth was also embarrassed even further when her mother and two sisters began to squeal in delight. Darcy felt extremely sorry for her.
"Now that is what I call generosity. That is what I call gentlemanly behaviour."
Darcy felt like shaking the woman but propriety demanded that he hold his tongue and bear it. He returned to staring out the window.
Thankfully, Mrs Bennet and her two silly daughters left. The sigh of relief was audible from all parts of the room. They began to disperse to their various activities; Bingley and his sisters for a game of cards, Miss Elizabeth to see her sister and then a walk around the grounds. Darcy decided to take a bath.
Darcy felt all his cares slipping away with the warm water. He lay back and enjoyed the brief moment of peace. For a minute, he could forget his duties as master of Pemberley, his worries about Georgiana and Bingley, his annoyance at Miss Bingley and pretend that the Bennets never existed.
But as the servant poured more water over his head, he found that the picture of Miss Elizabeth Bennet would not go away. He shook his head to clear the image.
Soon, he got out of the bath. The servant handed him a robe and he tied it then walked to the window. He looked out.
There, on the grass below him, was Miss Elizabeth.
She was having a tug-o-war with one of the dogs. The animal wagged its tail in enjoyment. Elizabeth won the sick and playfully held her prize in the air.
Darcy leaned on the wall, charmed. The way the breeze blew at her hair, how it's chill made her face glow. Her eyes sparkled with the joy of merely being alive.
He would have been content to stay there and watch forever. But gentlemen did not peek at young ladies, no matter how attractive they were. And even worse, what if she happenned to glance up and see him?
Reluctantly, he moved away from the window and back to his chamber where he got dressed.
But this time, he wasn't so successful in banishing the picture of Miss Elizabeth.
Continued inPart 2
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