Mr. Bennet was by no means a fool. But right now he was seriously considering the possibility that he was beginning to lose his grip from reality.
The party had gathered around the table in a most promising order. His wife, sitting right across him, had for some reason placed Mr. Darcy right next to herself. He had been prepared to be entertained by his wife's tasteless fawning over the aforementioned gentleman and he had scanned other occupants as well in order to find another awkward match to be laughed at.
His eyes momentarily rested on Jane and Bingley, who only had eyes for each other. He smiled warmly, for he was not mean enough to laugh at love, which, although desperate, adolescent and sappy, was so earnest.
Then his eyes happened upon Elizabeth and he became concerned. Terribly so.
Earlier that evening she had seemed to be rather excited, almost giddy, at the prospect of a gathering. Now she looked anxious and worried. Her gaze was fixed upon something at the end of the table. He followed her gaze to the far end of the table, but saw only his momentarily sober fool of a wife and that haughty Mr. Darcy changing formalities.
Mr. Bennet felt a quick pang of disappointment. He would have loved to see Mr. Darcy squirm in his chair.
Then his thoughts were suddenly back at Lizzy.
There was something wrong with the picture he saw in front of him, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
He forced his mind to work at full capacity and, in doing so, he wriggled his brow. The picture was starting to clear.
Lizzy SHOULD be laughing, or at least smiling at the thought of Darcy in discomfort. But instead she was being embarrassed and fearful that her mother might start harassing Mr. Darcy. It made no sense, but it had to be so.
Why should Lizzy care about what Mr. Darcy thought of them. She hated him! He had mistreated Wickham and she had been furious... Wickham!
Mr. Bennet's mind started working at it's normal speed. They had heard of Mr. Wickham's misfortunes from the man himself. He had related everything to Lizzy, at the very day they had first met! And, as he had learned the hardest way, Wickham was NOT a man to be trusted.
So Elizabeth had somehow the truth... but when? When she had visited pemberley last...! But wait, said Mr. Bennet to himself.
Elizabeth had met Darcy even before, while she was in Hunsford.
After that she had not mentioned Darcy again.
Mr. Bennet deduced that something had transpired between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, which had set in low spirits.
So what did she now feel towards Mr. Darcy?
Surely she could not love him? Mr.Bennet shook his head at thought. Impossible!
By now, his wife was talking to Mrs. Phillips, and Darcy was concentrating on his meal.
He decided push the whole thing out of his mind and follow Darcy's example. But he still made himself a mental note to ask Lizzy some day, whether she loved Mr. Darcy or not. He smiled, as he thought how they would laugh about the silliness of the question.
© 2001 Copyright held by author