Elizabeth raised her eyes from her needlework to look out of the window. It was still raining. She resigned herself to spending the afternoon with her mother and sisters instead of breathing the fresh air outdoors. Her mind was still troubled by recollection of past events.
Four months have passed since that part of my life. Nothing could be the same since that evening. It seems as if I have grown up so much, a little worn by experience.
The situation with Mr. Collins had been a matter of small importance that she had dealt with without harm. In fact it had nothing to do with the following events in her life. That aloof, despising man, who had caused the unhappiness of her beloved sister and ruined the prospects of a good friend, suddenly wanted to be her husband!
It seemed to Elizabeth that what could have been be a peaceful coming to terms, if handled with more tact under a completely different circumstance, without thwarted feelings and incorrect behaviour came to be an evening of anger, astonishment, and hurt.
"Lizzy, Jane! Look, Lizzy! Do you not think this green ribbon suits my eyes?" said Kitty.
"Pardon?" said Lizzy, coming back from her thoughts.
"Look." She left her seat and stood in front of Elizabeth showing the ribbon. "Is it not beautiful?"
"...fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen." said Mrs. Bennet almost crying. "Ouch, I've lost count. Please, dear!"
"Do you like it, mamma?" said Kitty paying no attention to her mother's complaint.
"Yes, dear, yes. Sew it to your bonnet." she started to count again moving her lips.
"I shall look beautiful. I wonder if Maria Lucas will like it. Green is not her favourite colour."
"...eight, seven, nine...Ouch!" Mrs. Bennet frowned at Kitty.
"Kitty, please. Do not distract Mother by talking while she is counting her stitches," Jane scolded gently.
The task of removing Lydia's influence from Kitty's character was hard, but worth doing.
Ah, Lydia, I cannot think of you without pain. Elizabeth continued recollecting her thoughts. Then came that letter in which I, while reading the truth of some events, learnt some truths about myself too. I had wilfully misjudged a man, blinding myself to the facts.
I learnt that I had chosen to be prejudiced against him. I, pretending to be a rational and sensible being, behaved like an ignorant, silly girl. She smiled wryly.
Being irrational for love, friendship, sympathy or humanity was tolerable and understandable, but being irrational because one was rejected at a ball was too much. Too much because that was all that had predisposed me against him. It was my defence against him. And then I found more reasons to think ill of him...until he explained so many things in his letter... until I saw the effects of his hand in Pemberley... until I heard him spoken of in the best terms... until we met him there and he was so civil and polite as to meet the Gardiner's and -- most striking!- as to wish his sister to be acquainted with me. But then Lydia's elopement...
How sad, to realise then that I loved him.
That he was the best man she had ever met, she did not doubt. He had saved Lydia's honour although he had left Mr. Gardiner the credit of it. That he had done it mostly because he still had feelings for her was not a fact she doubted. She believed he was constant in his feelings, but
His feelings may remain for a while, or forever. It does not matter because he will never bear to be Wickham's relative. That is something I know very well.
She could only consider whether his contempt for Wickham would be stronger than his love.
The following afternoon Elizabeth went for a walk to avoid a tedious visit by her Aunt Philips. She sat on a large stone, the ground was still wet, and opened the book she had brought with her. It was The Princess of Cleves. She had always been a keen reader and lately she had found that the company of a book was the best way to pacify her mind.
Absorbed by her book, she only stopped when her eyes became weary. Then, looking at her watch, she stood up and went home.
As she entered the hall she heard her mother's voice from the dinning room talking quite loudly:
"...that shall not prevent my asking him to dine here, I am determined. We must have Mrs. Long and the Gouldings soon. That will make thirteen with ourselves, so there will be just room at table for him. I shall ask him when he comes."
Upstairs, she knocked on Jane's door and entered.
"Jane, who is ..." she closed the door and stopped when she saw Jane's gesture . "Pray, are you unwell?"
"No. I am quite well, Lizzy." said Jane in a low voice and not raising her eyes.
Elizabeth did not believe her. Jane seemed to be sad.
She calmly approached the bed, where Jane was sitting.
"Tell me, who is coming? I heard Mother saying something."
"It is Mr. Bingley." She was still avoiding Elizabeth's eyes.
Lizzy had inadvertently found the object of her sister's concern, but she could not help but feel instantaneously happy.
"What good news!" she cried. She felt it was a good sign, and she wanted to share her optimism with Jane. "Jane, are you not pleased?"
"I do assure you that the news affects me with neither pleasure nor pain. I am glad of one thing, that he comes alone; because we shall see less of him. I am a little distressed. Not that I am afraid for myself, but I dread other people's remarks. Besides, our aunt said that he was coming here to shoot for several weeks, so maybe we will not see him at all," said Jane in an attempt to be indifferent.
Lizzy did not know what to make of Jane's speech. It seemed rather indifferent but behind it there was pain.
"Mother intends to invite him to dinner."said Lizzy.
"I do not believe he will dine here. Mother has good intentions, but I suffer when he is talked of and I feared that she would not talk of anything else for weeks after his departure from Netherfield."
Lizzy understood her sister's low mood. Many months had passed since their last meeting. She had not told Jane that she had seen Bingley in Lambton because it could had given her pain, but now that he was coming, and sure as Lizzy was that Bingley would dine with them, it was the right moment to discuss it:
"I recall now that Mr. Bingley visited us at Lambton. Did I tell you? It was a very short visit, but we talked amiably. He complained that he had not seen you since the 26th of November." That was said in a tone that did not give the matter its significance. However, the comment was important enough to draw Jane's attention, and she blushed a little.
"Still, he is a friend" she said softly, looking at the ground, "and I shall be glad to see him if he decides to come". Jane was not in the mood to ask Lizzy why she had concealed this small but capital piece of information. She had enough to consider with her own thoughts and feelings, and those of Bingley.
"When are we to expect him?" Lizzy was pleased by her sister's subtle change of mood.
"He arrives at Netherfield this Wednesday, on Thursday at the latest." she said with some anxiety in her tone.
Lizzy looked at Jane with tenderness. She saw happy prospects in her sister's future, but now Jane was suffering, uncertain of his feelings and quite disappointed by his absence. She sat beside her and hugged her. Then caught Jane's eye: "As you said, he is a friend."
Later, lying in the bed, she could think more about it.
Bingley coming to Netherfield. That must have something to do with Darcy. I told him about Jane's feelings and he must have persuaded his friend to come back and continue the relationship.
Charlotte was right. Jane's decorum in love deceived Darcy and surely Bingley too. Darcy was not to blame when he thought Jane did not love Bingley. In fact, Darcy and Jane are similar in some ways, because I never suspected him to be in love. He was disdainful at the beginning... but then he showed himself to be eager to talk and walk with me. And he stared at me all the time.
She could not help a deep feeling of loss and love when she imagined his look.
It was the third week of September and that they were going to Netherfield was settled. The reason of his going there was only to accompany Bingley or that was what he said to his friend, to whom he had not yet opened his heart.
Darcy was in London. He was sitting in an armchair with a book in his hands, but it did not engage his attention. He was deep in thought.
Darcy had received the sudden appearance of Elizabeth at Pemberley as a sign.
At Rosings he left without any hopes of seeing her again, their paths would never cross again. That summer day, he was not expected at home and she was supposed to be at the Lakes, but they had met by chance. The meeting wiped away his gloomy feelings. It could be a fresh start, or a chance to mend his mistakes and lessen her poor opinion of him.
He did not resent the past and decided to work for the future. He showed civility and introduced Georgiana to Elizabeth, expecting that a true friendship would start. Suddenly they had to part again when Elizabeth recieved the news of Lydia's elopement, but he decided to do everything possible to solve the problem. And now, Lydia was married to Wickham.
It is strange how one's emotions work. He is the last person I wanted to be connected to by family ties... until now. It amazes me how little his being Elizabeth's brother in law matters to me. In April, I disdained her low connections. Her reproaches were just and I have changed. Now I realise she is the only connection I desire. I wonder what would she think of me if she knew what I had to do with Lydia's wedding. She would think I was intruding upon her family's affairs. Anyway, I do not want to oblige her to thank me. I did it to relieve her pain, not to be thanked. But I must not fear that, for Mr. Gardiner agreed not to say a word.
He sighed, and looked at his book. How many times have I read that line? He smiled and continued with his thoughts.
How quickly Bingley agreed to spend some time at Netherfield! I only mentioned that it could be considered uncivil not having returned to the neighbourhood. I am glad his sisters are not coming. They would get in the way. I must see if Miss Bennet is still in love with Bingley, which I suspect to be very likely, as Elizabeth said. Moreover, I shall see Elizabeth. I need to see her and judge whether I might ever hope to make her love me.
"I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
He closed his eyes to banish those painful words from his mind. He took a deep breath and tried hard to concentrate in his determination to find some hope and avoid thoughts of fear.
All is lost if I let the fear of defeat rule me.
Four days later he was standing in front of the full-length mirror in his room at Netherfield. He was quite anxious. He looked around, sure that he was forgetting something. He went through the writing desk and the bedside table. He searched in the drawers but it was not there. Then he felt his pocket and it was already in its proper place. It will only be a short call. I am going to observe Miss Bennet's feelings.
Nay, he was going to see Elizabeth.
He went downstairs to the drawing room, where Bingley was waiting for him.
"There you are, at last!" cried Charles. They went outdoors. "It was a good idea to come. The air of the Hertfordshire is very healthy. I feel quite at ease here."
"I am sure you do." beamed Darcy.
Bingley looked the horizon and said, "Well, let's visit our friends at Longbourne."
They mounted their horses and rode to Longbourne. As they entered the paddock and rode towards the house, Darcy felt his heart beating wildly.
They were shown into the room where Mrs. Bennet and her daughters were.
The next half hour was spent by Darcy and Elizabeth in a way that would discourage the most spirited. They both felt quite shy with each other.
The entire burden of conversation fell on Mrs. Bennet, Bingley and Jane's shoulders. Mrs. Bennet used all the civility she knew (some of which seemed quite uncivil to Elizabeth), and Bingley was very happy to see his friends again and stay a few weeks at Netherfield. He was very happy to see Jane again and made the decision of staying until November at once. Jane was very amiable but her speech did not flow as usual as she was very happy and moved. Kitty only listened and Mary did not even do that.
Darcy and Elizabeth were too embarrased to talk and equally grave and silent. They only spoke a few words about the Gardiner's and Miss Darcy.
Darcy and Bingley accepted an invitation to a family dinner on Tuesday at Longbourne and then they left.
Back at Netherfield, Bingley was able to share all his high spirits with his friend. They sat in a bench of the Netherfield garden.
"Now I realise how much I enjoy the company of the people of this neighbourhood! I intend to stay here untilNovember." he had the pleasure of saying it aloud. "Will you stay with me?"he beamed.
"I was supposed to stay only a few days." said Darcy in a soft voice. In his ride to Netherfield, Darcy had not decided what to do. His first intention was to stay for a week and then leave Charles but he must had known that his friend would not hear of staying without him.
"I know that you do not enjoy shooting very much, but the weather is still fine and we have friends here that we have not seen for many months." said Charles, obviously speaking of his sweet Jane.
"I am not sure. The weather must change, it is autumn." he said, avoiding the subject of the neighbourhood.
"Besides, I have to make use of Netherfield, or what did I hire it for?" he blew away an ant that was crawling up his breeches.
"Yes, you are right." Darcy could not say a thing against the sense of that.
"Besides, should I stay here all alone and you at London all alone, too, when we could be here riding or fencing instead?" he knew how to be persuasive. "Or going mushrooming, if we want to?" they laughed.
But still Darcy found a gap to escape. "Until November is too long and I must stay with Georgiana, who is in Pemberley." he said in a concerned tone of voice.
"Is she not with Mrs. Annesley until Christmas?"
"Yes, she is, but I want and must devote more time to her. Lately I have been thinking that she is too young to be so alone." He said this feeling very guilty.
"That is the perfect plan, then! She must come here and met the Bennet girls. She knows Elizabeth already. And she will love to go mushrooming with us!" Bingley's good humour had unquestionably won this time.
It could be good for Georgiana to have the company of young girls, not only Bingley's sisters or Mrs. Annesley, so Darcy said that he would go to London to talk with his sister.
Darcy had also agreed because he felt that he owed Charles a debt for having moved him away from Jane, but he was not sure if he could cope with so long a stay if he had to see Elizabeth showing indifference every day.
Then they went to their rooms to change their clothes and while Bingley daydreamed of Jane, Darcy relived the visit from his own point of view.
She was so silent today. I thought she would talk to me.
We were not seated close to each other, but we could have talked more.
Perhaps she was indifferent?
I hope she was only too surprised at seeing me and that made her feel shy. That must be the case.
Maybe she is embarrassed at having told me of Lydia's elopement. I am sure she thinks it was unnecessary to tell me because eventually they were married. Well, I will not say a word about it lest she feels uneasy.
Anyway, I must be more eloquent or she will think that I have lost all interest in her.
She was astonished at his coming, but far more surprised by his behaviour.
He was more eloquent in Derbyshire. It vexed her. Why, if he came only to be silent, grave and indifferent, did he come at all?
She was very frustrated. If she had known that he was coming she would have thought of something to talk about or an excuse to approach him, in case he was sitting far from her, as had turned out to be the case. She blamed herself for not being able to engage him in conversation. She had only wanted to be near him, to be agreeable and to spend some precious minutes with him. She missed very much the man that she had met in Derbyshire and that she had ignored at Rosings and Hertfordshire.
Why could he not be more amiable? If he fears me, why did he come here? If he no longer cares for me, why is he silent? Teasing, teasing man! I will think no more about him. In fact, she feared the answers to these questions. She feared that all the things she said that night at Hunsford could have made his love diminish. She had not apologised to him, which she now very much regretted. Despite her resolution, her thoughts continued as she walked, analysing the situation.
Maybe he has decided not to encourage me into love. If it is the case, it is too late for me. How sad it is.
I have wounded him too much and he has tried to overcome it but the weight of my words must be unbearable.
I have not thought ill of him since he explained everything, but I have not told him, and my words were too horrible. I should apologize, but we would never be able to be at ease at each other's company.
Must I tell him how much my thoughts, opinions and feelings have changed? Would it not be a straight declaration of my feelings? Would not it be improper?
Am I able to talk about them? Would he regret or resent hearing them?
She could not come to a conclusion that did not give her pain.
The anxiously awaited Tuesday came and the meal took place. It was a happy day for Charles and Jane. They sat together at the table, they talked, laughed and played cards together. Charles could see that Jane was the same as he remembered and recovered a happy mood that he had not felt since his departure from Netherfield. Jane grew in confidence and she no longer feared his company. She hoped to see him frequently. Still, she denied her feelings to Lizzy pretending to think of Bingley only as a good friend.
On the other hand, Lizzy ended the day in very low spirits. She was happy to see Jane and Charles draw closer in every way but it was the only pleasure of the day. She had waited anxiously for Darcy. She was determined to be amiable and enjoy his company, but they sat far from each at the table. She hoped to engage him in conversation later, but as she waited in the drawing room for the gentlemen, her impatience soured her mood and in any case, when he came in, it was impossible for him to sit near her. There was a ray of hope when he came to bring his coffee cup but it was wasted. She was so fatigued by her ill mood that she could only think of one topic to talk about, not realising at that moment that they had talked about it during his first visit. She was not able to say anything more, she waited in anxiety for his words but one of the girls began to whisper to her, so he went away. Then, her heart sank when they sat at different tables to play cards.
The only thing that gave her hopes was Jane's relationship with Bingley. The rest of the events of her evening were disastrous, and she was disappointed as she considered them.
How unlucky! All of the day's possibilities were completely wasted. It was impossible to speak at the table and during the game. Asking about Georgiana again wasted the only moment I did have. Oh, how silly! I was unable to think of anything else! He must think I do not have the slightest interest in him, or that I was avoiding his company! Oh, this could be very, very sad. What was the use of his standing by my side without uttering a sound? I cannot understand that! I thought that he came to me looking for conversation. Why silent! Why!
She spoke to Jane about Bingley with cheerfulness, but as Jane insisted in telling her that he was only a friend, she left her sister with a little annoyed, more due to the days disappointments than to Jane's pretended indifference towards Bingley.
The further the carriage was from Longbourne, the more Fitzwilliam Darcy became angry with himself.
Incredibly stupid! How can I give her offence standing there without saying anything?
He hardly heard what Bingley was saying about the pleasant day they had had at the Bennet's.
At dinner, Charles realised that his friend was too silent and pensive, but when he asked, Darcy just told him that he was tired. He retired to his room early and there he reflected on his behaviour, that to his frustration, he found incapable to justify.
I cannot believe what I did. I had every intention of engaging her in conversation, but I did not. Elizabeth must think I am a stupid and useless acquaintance. The dullest man. She is one of the most lively and intelligence people I have ever met, both among men and women, and she must think that I am boring and depressing. I just cannot believe it.
I was determined to be agreeable. My resolution left me and I gave way to a reserved mood when I was among so many people. Yet I managed to have a conversation with Mr. Bennet about the war in Spain. I realise now from whom she gained her wits.
If only I could be as I was in Derbyshire. However, there I was among my friends.
I spent all day desperately waiting to be with her and when it comes, the only thing I give her is an awkward silence.
But he did not realise that it was his anxiety what was ruining his determination of being pleasant company, because while his mind arranged how the encounter should be, his passion lurked behind, aching for its object. Then, when the moment required most his mind to be sociable he was overwhelmed by the long desired feeling of her closeness, making him reserved.
The gentlemen spent the next two days shooting, riding, and visiting other acquaintances in the Hertfordshire. However, Bingley was the one who took the most of the pleasure from these activities. Darcy's mood was low: he longed to see Elizabeth but he could not see her until after his return from London, as he was leaving the following morning.
The night before Darcy's departure, Bingley decided to amuse his friend. He was aware of his gloomy mood and wanted him to share his cheerfulness. Darcy was thoughtful again.
They were sitting in front of the fire enjoying a quiet port. Bingley broke the silence: "Darcy?"
"Do you like this wine? "
After a few seconds he said: "And did you like the dinner?"
"Yes. Very much. Why?" he retorted.
"Darcy, you have used my best inks, you have ridden my best horse and you have eaten my best duck."
"Sorry, but you do not keep ducks," Darcy rejoined playfully
"That has nothing to do with it." he teased. "You have also drunk my best port. I try my best to bribe you, but you still keep your worries to you. Share them with me! I need some concerns to counterbalance my happiness."
Darcy smiled. "Your moods are very well balanced, indeed. It would be an error to change them." he said.
They were silent for a moment. Then Bingley said "Seriously Darcy, what is the matter? I know you."
Darcy took a deep breath and said "I was going to tell you now, before you asked what I think of your port."
"Then, proceed, my friend. You have my complete attention," he beamed.
"I am almost sure that Miss Bennet loves you," he paused to consider what he was going to say. Bingley stared at him, mouth slightly opened, amazed. It was not the kind of confession he was expecting. Darcy went on: "I have been giving the matter my attention." He paused again.
"Well, it is too soon to tell." Bingley was a bit embarrassed. "She has been far more than agreeable, and I think she sees me as a good friend, but it is too soon to tell."
"You are very humble. You overlook your good qualities." He went on: "I am very sorry to say that last autumn I made the very sad mistake of thinking that she did not love you."
It sounded like an apology, and Charles was puzzled: "Well, it was just your opinion. There is no need for you to be sorry."
"On the contrary, there is every need for me to be sorry. Did you know that Miss Bennet was in London for three months last winter?"
Bingley was astonished: "It is not possible. Either she or Caroline would have told me. I should have known." he was frowning.
"You knew? At the time?"
"Yes. Moreover, I am very ashamed to say that I purposely kept it from you."
Bingley looked at him directly in the eye waiting for further explanation, getting angrier with every second.
"I was so absurd as to think that you were going to propose to a girl who did not love you and did not had relations equal to yours. My interference was absurd and impertinent. I am very sorry."
"You must be very sorry! I missed three whole months with her in London!" he was equally astounded and angry. He left his armchair and paced about the room. "What is it about her relations? I do not care about her relations! You told me what you had against them and it was only nonsense!" He stopped to face Darcy. "She was not good enough for me, was she? She is not rich and her aunt is not a Lady!"
Darcy ran his hand through his hair, very ashamed. He forced himself to look at Bingley, to take all that was his due.
Bingley poured another glass of port and drank it. "Tell me, Darcy, was it for my welfare or for your pride?"
"It was for your welfare, although my pride blinded me. I am very sorry. I did not mean to hurt you. I was only thinking of your happiness, but I usurped a power of decision that never belonged to me." Bingley was pacing again about the room. Darcy swallowed. "I will understand it if you tell me that you do not want me to come back to Netherfield," said Darcy quietly, fearing that this would be the case.
Bingley, instead of answering this, asked: "Did you see her in town or did someone tell you?" As Darcy hesitated a moment, Bingley spoke again, looking through the window. "It was Caroline who told you, I am sure. She and Louisa must have known. Every time I asked about their correspondence with Miss Bennet, they said that their letters were not answered. I knew Miss Bennet enough to think that she would never do that, so I did not know what to make of it. I thought she had lost interest in our acquaintance," he said wretchedly.
"Yes, it was Caroline who told me that Miss Bennet had visited her," said Darcy in a low voice.
"Did she tell you what her reason was to separate me from Miss Bennet? You thought it was for my welfare, I suppose." he smiled sadly and shook his head, looking at the reflection of Darcy in the window. Then he said quietly. "Did she tell you whom she wants me to marry? Her ideal sister-in-law is your sister Georgiana."
"I supposed something of the kind, but I overlooked it, thinking only of my reasons, which I stupidly found sensible. I did not know how much pain I was inflicting on you until Miss Elizabeth taught me." Darcy thought that Bingley deserved all the truth.
"Did she? She is a good friend, both brave and witty," he said with some bitter amusement. "You should marry her; she can give you your due."
Darcy clenched his fists. His breast sank when he remembered the scene: "Actually, I proposed to her and she rejected me." He said, staring at the fire. He had never said it aloud and the effects of doing it were devastating on him, internally and externally.
Bingley thought he looked devastated. "I am very sorry," said Charles. This was a night of surprises. His anger disappeared and he only felt sympathy for his friend. He appreciated that the suggestion of returning to Netherfield had been Darcy's. His confidence as to how well he would be received in the neighbourhood had been low, but as his friend had said that it might be an incivility not to return soon, he had recovered his determination and faced Miss Bennet. His friend had acted wrongly but was truly repentant and had endeavoured to remedy the damage he had caused. Moreover, he had been very sincere when he could have chosen to remain silent.
As for his friend's happiness, he did see anything that he could do. He could only be supportive and attempt to cheer him up. Charles walked to the fireplace and sat in the arm of his armchair, "I accept your apology. I shall only remember that it was for my welfare." he put his hand on his friends shoulder. "Darcy, you can consider Netherfield as your home. So I hope you will come back in few days. Will you?"
"Yes, I shall." he gave a small smile and looked at his friend. "I shall be back in ten days." Darcy felt better, he shared the heavy truth with his friend. He had an ally. Bingley was the best friend one could have.
The moment needed a change of subject, "Well, did you say that she loves me?" exclaimed Bingley, exorcising the gloomy moods of the late minutes.
"I think so." Darcy cheered up. "I dare say that she suits you very well and is one of the most accomplished woman I have met." he beamed.
Charles laughed out loudly. "You and your accomplished woman!"
"She is intelligent and sensible, amiable and very sweet." And the most beloved sister to Elizabeth, and that is saying something.
"Darcy! You are in love with Miss Bennet too, I am afraid! I shall have to fight a duel with you at dawn."
"No, no." Darcy shook his head. "At Miss Bennet's wedding, I should rather be the best man than the bridegroom."
They laughed heartily and shook hands.
The following morning, while they were having the breakfast, they still had some things to discuss, "I do not like how Caroline behaves. She criticises the Bennets too much, especially Miss Elizabeth, although she is a friend of Miss Bennet." He felt the pain of Caroline not telling him Miss Bennet was in London. "I have been thinking that if I am so lucky as to marry Miss Bennet, Caroline must live in London, with the Hursts. I think she will want to be in London, and that is the best place for her. Jane and I must live our own life..."
"My Lord! Is it Charles Bingley to whom I am talking?"
"Why?" he smiled
"Because what you are saying implies that you are perhaps going to buy a estate?"
"It is not a sudden decision. Do not look me this way. It is true. I intend to do it in the future."
"I think it is a good idea. Very good. Miss Bennet and you must have intimacy, you are a family. Will be." At this, Bingley made a gesture of surprise. "As you see, I am very confident in your wedding. What amuses me is that your decision is as fast as they ever are. We have not spent a week here, so your decision cannot be older than that."
"In fact, it is not older than a day," chuckled Bingley. "Anyway, I must tell you that my heart spoke louder than your advice of last autumn. It was just a matter of time for me. Someday I should have ridden to Longbourn and continued what I had left in November."
An hour later, Fitzwilliam Darcy left Netherfield. As the carriage left the estate, he felt wretchedly unhappy because he was aware that the impression he was making on Elizabeth was that he did not care for her anymore.
The very day that Fitzwilliam Darcy left Netherfield, Charles Bingley visited Longbourn and was invited to dine there the following day. Mrs. Bennet was resolved to make things as easy as possible for Mr. Bingley to propose to Jane. The following day after tea, Mr. Bennet and Mary having already left the room, she decided to leave Bingley and Jane alone. Her mind was much occupied: They must be all alone! Yes. Yes, we three must go. How? How? It must not appear arranged. How?
Although the rest were in quiet conversation, their minds were also somewhat occupied: Jane: He smiles at me. Oh, love! My, I am blushing! Charles: How beautiful you are, my love. Lizzy: What a charming couple they are. I wonder what Mr. Darcy is doing right now. Is he thinking of me? Kitty: La la la dum dum dum.
A short moment later, out of the corner of her eye, Lizzy noticed something strange in her mother's countenance. She is not talking and is staring at us. Perhaps she is feeling ill? Oh, she winked at me! I shall not look at her! She must be scheming about Bingley and Jane. Mamma, please. Oh, she winked again! Mamma! I will concentrate on my needlework and will not raise my eyes.
Some minutes later, while the other continued what they were doing, Catherine was absent minded, composing a little song: with her green, green ribbon with her green, green ribbon
what could say the next line? A word that rhymes with ribbon. Ribbon.
her cap has a ribbon her cap has a ribbon a green, green ribbon like her eyes Ah, mamma is winking at me! "What is the matter, mamma? What do you keep winking at me for? What am I to do?"
Grrr. Silly girl! "Nothing, child, nothing. I did not wink at you."
However, five minutes later Mrs. Bennet took Catherine out of the room with a flimsy excuse that only convinced Kitty.
I would swear mamma was winking indeed. It does not matter. Maybe she wants to tell me we are going to sew more green ribbons on my cap. Or maybe we are going to sew them on my light green dress? La la la dum dum dum.
Mamma!! Your intentions are too clear and that will make Bingley and Jane feel quite uncomfortable! I will not leave them. That would be most uncivil. Elizabeth thought vexedly.
Oh, no, Mamma. I do not want him to be forced to anything. Please, Lizzy, do not leave us. Jane fretted.
What is happening? Why does Mrs. Bennet leave the room with Miss Catherine? pondered Bingley.
A few minutes later, Mrs. Bennet forced Lizzy to leave the room with the same unconvincing excuse. "Hah! Ahahaha! That will do the trick!" thought Mrs. Bennet
"How embarrassing! What will he think of us? I will be back in a moment," thought Lizzy
"Please, Lizzy, do not leave us too!" thought Jane
"She has gone. Are we left without any chaperone? Jane looks very uncomfortable," thought Charles
A short moment later, Lizzy opened the door and came into the room. Good, they are chatting peacefully. She took her needlework and Bingley spoke to her.
"I was telling Miss Bennet that Darcy has sent me a message confirming that he will be back in nine days."
Later, when Mrs. Bennet learnt that there had not been a proposal, she decided that the following day nobody would get in the way. She was very ingenious and managed to leave Jane and Bingley alone in the drawing-room after tea. However, Jane was warned of her mother's intentions, so she was a little more at ease than the day before.
When Bingley found that they were alone again, he thought, This must be her mother's scheme. I must break this silence and make her feel at ease. "Were you reading this morning?" said Bingley pointing to an open book on a table some distance from him.
"Yes, I was reading my German grammar." she smiled.
"German? An old acquaintance of mine. Let me have a look at it." He stood up and reached for it. He looked at the open page and read aloud: " Deis wheter whechsilt schenil: irst Rigin, dein Sonni. Sie stigt euf din Hugil heintir dim Beiuirnhof. "
Jane laughed and gave him a tender look. She enjoyed his ability to make the dull book amusing.
"How do you judge my pronunciation, Miss Bennet?"
"You pronounce very ill, I dare say," she smiled.
"Yes, the little German I learnt in two years, was lost in two months time at the very most. I remember one of my translations. It was that old saying: "The spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak." My teacher told me I had turned it to "The liquor is hard, but the steak is tender.""
Jane laughed heartily. "I can help you with your German, if you want to," she said, relaxing a little.
"I will need very much help, for German and I were never good friends."
"With patience it will be such a good friend to you as it is now for me," she smiled.
"I am not sure: my patience would need to be applied; but I do not want to drain your's. " he retorted.
"Do not worry about that. My patience has overcome some very hard tests before. Lizzy and I taught some German to our younger sisters." she smiled. She lowered the tone of her voice: "By the way, Mary is the only one that keeps some interest in it."
"I will be delighted," he chuckled, "to remember all that I have forgotten. I do not like to think that my learning was a waste of time. I was devoted to all my subjects, except German." He looked the text again. "I am lucky to have a second chance now."
The conversation was light and amusing, and they were comfortable and friendly. However, as he said this last phrase and Jane heard it, although the meaning was related to German, she could not avoid hearing it with an echo within her. He was standing, with the book open in his hands, and as he did not hear any immediate response he looked at her again and he caught a special light shining through her eyes. It was perhaps more a feeling than an intent look.
She felt him scrutinising her countenance and, feeling shy, she said "Have you received any letter from your sisters?" more for the sake of the conversation than for real interest.
"Yes. Yesterday, a letter from Caroline." he left the book on the table and sat in front of her.
"I hope she is in good health."
"Oh, yes. And Mr. and Mrs. Hurst, too."
"I am glad to hear it. They are in London, are not they?"
"Yes," he paused briefly and met Jane's eyes, "I have heard that you stayed in London some months of last winter and spring." He was not sure in what terms they could talk about it.
Jane said, "That is true. I stayed with my uncle and aunt Gardiner." She was very still but could not avoid his look.
He perceived her uneasiness very clearly and for the first time thought that she was truly pained. "I am very sorry for not knowing of it at the time. I wish I had known," he said.
She stared in wonder. He spoke the truth; his face reflected sincerity. He had not known. "I was not told then that you had paid a visit to my sister and it grieves me very much."
She felt relief, as her past doubts and fears faded. Her countenance softened. "Do not feel grieved, Mr. Bingley. It was very unlucky that there was some kind of misunderstanding between Miss Bingley and you, but it was a matter of bad luck; we can forget it." She smiled, watching for his relief.
He admired her determination not to blame anybody. Her sweetness was generous even when she had been injured purposely. "You are all sweetness," he said softly. "Our separation was very sad to me," he added full of emotion.
She blushed but kept her eyes on Bingley's. He saw her glowing face, her smile and her tender eyes and admitted the truth he had been too humble to believe.
"I would be happy never to be separated from you again." He stood up near the fireplace and said "Miss Bennet, will you do me the honour of accepting my hand and becoming my wife?"
It was probably the fastest proposal in many years in the Hertfordshire. He did not speak of her beauty, her intelligence or of her many other virtues that made her an accomplished woman. Nor did he speak of his days of sorrow and despair when he believed that she was indifferent nor about the material advantages of their wedding. Charles Bingley only cared for the very essence of the matter.
She stood up and said tenderly, "I will be your wife." She beamed, as she was full of joy. She had never experienced so much happiness. She had not expected a proposal, but once made she believed every happy thing in this world could happen if it could be thought.
Charles was equally elated. He took Jane's hands and kissed them. "Jane, you make me so happy. I love you."
"Oh, Charles. My dear Charles, you make me so happy. I love you, too," she giggled. "Sorry, I am not quoting you." They laughed softly.
Life at Longbourn and Netherfield during these days could only be described as happy. Mr. Bennet grew fonder every day of Charles Bingley, and Mrs. Bennet could not love him more. Kitty thought that she (and not her sister Jane) was the luckiest girl in the Hertfordshire for she was going to have a pleasing brother who would provide her with plenty of balls and music. Even Mary was glad, because she had always thought Mr. Bingley was a good man, despite his inclination for dancing, his cheerfulness and his youth.
Lizzy was happier every day. She enjoyed Jane and Bingley's felicity and it helped to raise her own hopes of happiness, for she was not going to lose her acquaintance with Darcy, and that was a very important point for her. Still, she was not optimistic enough to daydream about their wedding for there were obstacles formed by the Lydia's marriage that Jane's marriage could not remove.
Lizzy's role during the first days of Jane and Charles' engagement was important, as she was not only the confidante of her sister. In the absence of Mr. Darcy, she became a loyal friend to Bingley and listened amiably to how elated he was, how fortunate he was and how he wished every living creature to be equally blessed with happiness. Jane had made this wish too, as Lizzy playfully remembered.
"My naive wish makes you smile," said Bingley.
"I am sorry, but I find it very amusing to see how alike you and my dear Jane are. She made the same comment when she confessed to me you were engaged," said Lizzy. Bingley sighed and Lizzy turned her face away to hide a smile.
As can be guessed, Charles Bingley did not wait for the arrival of his friend at Netherfield to tell him the good news. He hastily wrote a short letter and sent it immediately.
This was what Darcy read:
Mon, Oct 5th
I am getting married! She accepted me!
I am living the happiest moments of my life to date.
He wrote another letter, equally short and informative, to the Hurst's and Miss Bingley.
My dear sisters Monday, 5of October
I have the honour of announcing that I am engaged to Miss Bennet.
We shall be married in the Netherfield parish the 21st of December.
Darcy did not think it appropriate to move Georgiana to Netherfield. It would be inconvenient to Bingley to be burdened with guests, as he would be leaving very frequently for Longbourn, Meryton or London. Darcy was free to move as required, but Georgiana would need the constant assistance of either Darcy or Bingley. He considered it better to wait some months until Bingley was more settled into his new life. Georgiana would be introduced to the neighbourhood at the wedding.
Darcy answered Bingley's note in a clearer and more articulate way:
Dear Bingley London, October 7
Congratulations, my dear friend! I am very happy to hear that you are going to marry Miss Bennet. I wish you joy with all my heart, which I think you will surely achieve if you have not already, which I sincerely doubt.
Please, give Miss Bennet my best wishes.
The days passed. The contentment in which Elizabeth had spent these days was lost under the influence of surprising visit from Lady Catherine and the vexation of a stupid letter from Mr. Collins that rambled on about Lydia and her marriage. Yet both of these occurances also encouraged a dormant flicker of hope.
Monday the 12th brought Fitzwilliam Darcy back to Netherfield again. Elizabeth was now in a state of excitement of Darcy's imminent visit. She could not help taking more care than usual with her hair and dress, which proved to be of no use, as Darcy did not visit them this day - he was resting, said Bingley.
The following day Elizabeth was ready to take a morning walk on her own when the gentlemen arrived. She felt suspended when she first glanced at Darcy and he looked at her. She had a clear picture of him in her mind, but his presence heightened her emotions.
His countenance was a little serious, but nothing that could prevent Elizabeth from feeling at ease and talking to him, after those days of merriment and closer friendship with Bingley. She was far more confident in herself now because she knew she was not going to lose his acquaintance.
Bingley proposed a walk. He and Jane walked together and were soon overtaken by Darcy, Elizabeth and Kitty. The rest of the Bennet's remained at home.
Elizabeth mentioned the rainy days they had had and expressed her relief to enjoy a second day without rain. Then she asked Darcy about his journey.
Kitty found their company very boring. Mr. Darcy was not as agreeable as Mr. Bingley and she found herself a bit scared of talking in his presence, with him being so proud and serious, so she left them to call upon Maria Lucas.
"I was about to take a walk on my own when you arrived. Yesterday the ground was too muddy to have a pleasing stroll," Lizzy said as Kitty walked away. She turned and saw Jane and Charles walking very slowly a good distance away. She both feared and enjoyed the idea of walking alone with him, as they had in Rosings Park. However, her disposition was quite different now from what it had been in spring: she had every intention of keeping the conversation alive.
"Should we wait for them?" asked Darcy.
"They are walking slowly. We should not impose our presence, I think." she smiled. "It has been only a few days, hardly more than a week, since their engagement. They have many things to talk about."
He smiled. "Bingley sent me a letter announcing the engagement. I was very happy to hear it" He was being sincere.
She felt moved by his warm comment "They are very happy and it makes me happy too. Well, everybody at home is delighted and in high spirits," she said. Neither of them spoke for a moment. She did not want to talk about Jane's sadness in the last months, Darcy knew enough of it and it was useless now to repeat facts and remember things that could make them feel unhappy.
She considered the next topic. They had touched upon the weather and the state of the roads without trouble but they needed something far more substantial about which to talk. She found a safe subject.
"Has your business in town been finished successfully?"
"Yes. You know Pemberley. It is so large that it always needs some work done. Paperwork." he seemed more communicative. "It will soon require my attention again. It is a constant dedication."
"It must be." She feared to say a warmer compliment of his estate, lest he thought she was more interested on it than in its master. She suddenly realised that as she was alone with him she could thank him for his kindness in arranging Lydia's marriage. Yet, it was an uncomfortable subject and she would rather leave it aside for the moment and continue their quiet talk.
"I recall the trees of Rosings Park. The walk under them was beautiful," she said. "I suppose your aunt has the help of a very competent steward." She had mentioned this to be kind about something connected with him and the walks they had had together.
"You suppose well. My aunt takes a great deal of concern in Rosings and its surroundings, and her steward is very busy."
Elizabeth turned her face to hide a smile. She pictured Lady Catherine making decisions on every tiny detail of the estate. "Mr. Bingley has told me he intends to live in Netherfield," she said. "I like very much the idea of having my sister so near, but I think they could have a estate of their own, without moving far." They had talked before about distances between members of the same family, and Elizabeth still held the same point of view, as far he could see.
"His sisters have often told him so, but he was not inclined to do it. Maybe in time they will decide to settle in a home of their own." he said.
"Do you not approve of his living as a tenant?" She hazarded a guess at this from the emphasis that he placed on 'own'.
"No, no. I think Netherfield is a good manor. As a tenant of Netherfield, he has all the advantages of such an estate and none of its worries. However, he could have a place of his own." Again he had stressed the same word.
"Your friend does not share your views. He is content living in a home that has not been the house of his ancestors." She could see that his heart was deeply rooted in Pemberley.
"That his ancestors have not left him a landholding is of no consequence. The point is that now he has the means of purchasing one. He could have a home that belonged only to him." He looked serious as he was talking of his own possessive nature. "A property only devoted to him and his family."
"I see you are very attached to Pemberley," she dared to say.
"It has been my family's land for hundreds of years. I suppose I have it in my blood." He looked at her in an earnest, meaningful way.
She held his look and delighted at it for a while and then said, "Longbourn has been the grounds of my family for many years, too. With five daughters, however, none of us is going inherit the estate. It is entailed. As you might know, the next proprietor of Longbourn is Mr. Collins. As he is married to my friend Charlotte Lucas; the park will be out of my family's hands in the future.
"If that happened to Pemberley I would be deeply grieved."
"It is sad, indeed, but it cannot be helped." She paused to consider what she was about to say. She looked at his serious but amiable countenance and decided to say it. "I do no doubt that you would make hard sacrifices to keep Pemberley," she said, trying to prompt a smile.
"Yes. I would try to retain it. I would do anything in my power," He explained.
"Would you marry Mr. Collins?" she asked playfully.
He laughed. "I am sorry. With the due respect to Mr. Collins and his wife, it is a sacrifice I could not face. Yet, Longbourn is not completely lost for the Bennet family. Perhaps, in time, a grandchild of Mr. Bennet would marry the heir of Mr. Collins. Your families are very close," he said.
Now it was Elizabeth who laughed, because the scheme Darcy had built in a moment seemed one made by her mother. It was full of sense, yet it was funny to hear Darcy saying such things.
"You do not agree with me." He smiled. She liked his smile very much and felt a pleasing sensation of shivering in her stomach.
Then they heard a call. It was Bingley, who proposed that they return to Longbourn to dinner
Later, at bedtime, Lizzy recollected her long conversation with Mr. Darcy. Above all, she was satisfied. She was feeling a quiet happiness due to their amiable talk. She had never had really talked with him before. They had had an amiable conversation without anxiety or dislike, and that is why she felt content. This is how it should be between us as we will be very much in each other's company in the future.
Continued in Part 2
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