The Billiard Lesson
Time: Shortly after Darcy becomes engaged to Elizabeth--it is not public knowledge yet.
Caroline had just finished breakfast when a letter from her brother arrived. The servant brought it to her on a silver platter. She reviewed the letter with great interest. Though it contained much drivel on the many stunning qualities of Miss Jane Bennet that she felt were quite unwarranted, it did contain an invitation to come and stay at Netherfield until the wedding.
"Louisa, listen to this" she ordered, as she began to read the letter out loud,
I would be greatly pleased if you, Louisa and Arthur could join me here. Darcy, who is to be my best man, is already in residence.
Caroline looked up from the letter, "So that is were he has gone. I had noticed him missing from the theater the other night. When I asked Georgiana, she said he had been visited by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and left almost immediately after his aunt. I had thought he was in Kent on some family business. But no doubt he has gone to try talk some sense into Charles."
"Very likely, my dear," Louisa agreed, as she buttered her toast. "Now would be a good time to secure his affections for when one's friends start to marry, it plants the germ of the idea of marriage into a man's brain. How can the seed fail to grow when given the proper inducement?"
"Oh, I quite agree. Do you think being exposed to the charms of Mrs. Bennet will cure Darcy of his infatuation with Miss Elizabeth Bennet?" Caroline still felt the sting of his defense for that woman last August.
"I fail to see how it can do otherwise" Louisa stated, then proceeded to do a wicked imitation of Mrs. Bennet "I'll have you know, sir, that we dine with quite four and twenty families."
Oh, Louisa, you are too cruel" Caroline dissolved into tittering laughter. When she had recovered from this merriment, she asked, "Do you think you could be ready to leave by this afternoon?"
"I doubt Arthur will be, but he can come tomorrow or the day after. If we pack lightly today, he can carry the extra baggage when he comes." Thus it was decided between the Superior Sisters that they would leave that very afternoon.
Since Caroline's and Louisa's idea of packing light was to carry no more than ten pieces of baggage--each--it took them longer than they had anticipated to get ready for the journey.
Mr. Hurst further delayed their departure; for when arriving home to find the house in chaos, demanded to know what was going on. When told of the invitation to Netherfield, he decided to accompany the two ladies (for Bingley's stock of brandy was of much finer quality than his own).
Mr. Hurst then had to fortify himself with a large amount of his own inferior brandy (to avoid being sick in the carriage). When he was near a comatose state, the ladies had the footmen bundle him into the carriage, where his snores provided background noise for the entire journey.
During the journey, the sisters entertained themselves by putting down the entire Bennet family, (even Jane was characterized as being too sweet, she made their teeth ache). They also discuss what the best way to get Darcy's attention was, since nothing Caroline had done previously had provided any results.
This failure on the part of Darcy to recognize her true worth often vexed Caroline--but not so greatly that she gave up trying to capture his interest. His wealth, connections, and looks made him the most desirable man she knew, and she was not about to give up and she would marry him. She would!
Jane and Elizabeth were to visit Netherfield that day. Mr. Bingley had come up with the excellent excuse that Jane must come over to see if there was any changes she wished to make in the furnishings, etc. Mrs. Bennet had eagerly anticipated this diversion, and was to come along with her "favorite daughters". However, circumstances prevented her from doing so.
It was an unseasonably cold day, with a mix of precipitation that could not decide if it wanted to be mist, drizzle or downpour. Mrs. Bennet passed the morning in a boastful gossip session with Mrs. Phillips and Lady Lucas. She was just seeing them off when she slipped on the rain slick step and twisted her ankle rather badly. The house was thrown into an uproar. After escorting Mrs. Bennet into the drawing room, Jane did a quick examination of her mother's ankle. It was swollen twice the normal size. Mr. Bennet came into the room, upon seeing that Mrs. Bennet was truly injured, went to fetch the doctor.
When the doctor came, he examined Mrs. Bennet's ankle, bandaged it, and ordered her to remain off it for the next two weeks. He then presented his bill to Mr. Bennet and left.
As soon the doctor left, Mrs. Bennet was determined to get up. "For there are wedding clothes to see to, wedding plans to be made, and who will see to all the details if I do not. What do doctors know anyway?" But the moment she tried to get up she fell back against the sofa, the pain from her ankle to great to be born.
"Oh, Jane, Oh Lizzy, I do not what will become of your weddings. I do not! For who will see to the wedding clothes if I do not. Then there is the wedding breakfast to plan and, oh, Jane, who is to help you choose the new furnishings for Netherfield? Oh, it will all end in disaster, I know it will." She continued to bemoan her fate in this fashion for quite some time.
"I shall write to Mr. Bingley and cancel our visit," Jane said, only to be interrupted by her mother.
"No, Jane, you must go, for I am sure Mr. Bingley is anxious to show you your new home. And Lizzy will be accompanying you, for I am sure she is looking forward to seeing Mr. Darcy. And if you do not go then Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy will be pounding on the door, and I really do not believe my nerves up to entertaining either of them today. I will be fine with Mary, Kitty and Hill. Sara will go along to lend propriety. Hill, have them bring the carriage around." Mrs. Bennet had settled the matter.
Further protests from Jane and Elizabeth were silenced--if Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy wanted them at Netherfield, they would go to Netherfield. No argument could persuade Mrs. Bennet to change her mind and as she would not rest until she had seen that they were safely off, Elizabeth and Jane set off for Netherfield.
They reached their destination shortly. Bingley and Darcy were anxiouslyawaiting their fiancees. Both gentlemen were relieved that Mrs. Bennet wasnot one the party (though they did their best to conceal their delight) andexpressed the proper concern for her injury.
Amongst the four of them it was decided that a tour of Netherfield was thefirst order of business. Sara begged leave to visit her cousin who was amaid at Netherfield. She was escorted below stairs by the housekeeper, whocould see that the gentlemen did not mind not having the maidtrailing in their wake. Sara was given two tasks below stairs--polishingthe silver with her cousin and giving a detailed account of the morning'sevents at Longbourn to the rest of the servants.
The tour of the house lasted almost an hour. The foursome made their wayabout the house--up to the third floor (Jane and Bingley both blushed onthe discovery of the nursery)-- down to kitchens and most of the rooms inbetween.
They gathered in the drawing room for some refreshing tea. Bingley askedJane if how she liked the house and were there any changes she wanted tomake?
"I think it is a perfectly lovely house," Jane smiled.
"And do you think you will be happy here?" Bingley asked hopefully.
"Oh, very happy" Jane replied, looking at Bingley lovingly.
Darcy looked at Elizabeth, and rolled his eyes. Elizabeth suppressed aburst of laughter. "Jane, how can you say that, why you have not seen theentire house. We missed the billiard room. I discovered it myself when Istayed on while you were ill. It engendered in me a desire to know more ofthe game." She looked Darcy as she said this.
"Shall I teach to play, then?" Darcy asked.
"Would you?" Elizabeth answered, "now?"
"Of course, I taught my sister years ago. If your sister and Bingley willcome along, then I see no reason why you cannot have your first lessontoday?"
Jane, having no real interest in game, came along just lend Elizabethsupport. They all trooped off to the billiard room. The gentlemen removetheir coats, for it was impossible to play the game in their restrictiveouter garments.
After a short lecture on the rules and object of the game, Darcy andBingley played the first round, to show Jane and Elizabeth how the game wasplayed. The second game was for Jane and Elizabeth to play.
Bingley moved beside Jane to tell her how to make the shot. Jane listenedcarefully, tried her best to follow his instructions, but the shot wasmissed.
"Bingley, that will not do, you will never be able to teach Miss Bennet toshoot properly that way. Elizabeth, if I may" Darcy put his arms aroundElizabeth, and began to show her the proper positioning of her hands on thecue stick by covering them with his own. As she leaned over to make theshot he leaned with her and, whispering words of instruction into her ear,they hit the cue ball and were able to scatter the rest of the balls acrossthe table.
"Are certain this is the way you taught your sister to play?" Lizzy asked.
"She was six or seven at the time and it seemed the best way to go aboutit, don't you agree?"
"Yes" said both Elizabeth and Bingley, who placed his arms around Jane.They continued to wile away the afternoon playing tandem billiards.
At around six that evening, the sound of carriage was heard entering thecourtyard and assuming that it was the carriage from Longbourn come tocollect Jane and Elizabeth, it was decided that this would be the finalround.
Outside Caroline, Louisa and the still recumbent Mr. Hurst had arrived.Louisa decided she wanted to rest, since it would be awhile before a latesupper could be provided. She directed the footmen where to deposit Mr.Hurst.
Caroline, eager to find Mr. Darcy, instructed Fawcett to lead her to him.He led her to the billiard room. She felt her jealousy rise when she hearda voice from within call out "Oh, Jane, that will not do." She nearlytrampled the footman before he could announce her.
"Miss Caroline Bingley," Fawcett announced, quickly stepping out of her wayseeing that she was ready to run him down.
For a moment Caroline was taken aback by what she saw in the room. Therewas Darcy with arms around Miss Eliza Bennet, leaning over the billiardtable. She failed to notice that Bingley still had his arms around Jane.
The quartet turned toward her. Charles greeted her rather oddly "Caroline,your timing, as always, is perfect." Darcy gave him a enigmatic look.
The sound of a second carriage arriving could clearly be heard in the room.It was the carriage they had anticipated earlier, come to take Jane andElizabeth back to Longbourn.
Darcy stepped away from the table and putting on his jacket, offered hisarm to Elizabeth. Charles, raised Jane's hand to his lips. He thenwhispered in her ear "Go with your sister and Darcy, for I some things todiscuss with my sister." Jane looked at him questioningly, but he justsmiled. She walked to the opposite end of the table. Darcy lifted aneyebrow in silent query, and Bingley gave a slight nod. He offered hisother arm to Jane and the trio left the room.
Miss Bingley was ready to follow them when her brother ordered, "Caroline,Stay," in a tone of voice that she had never heard before. She looked athim, ready to walk out of the room, but something in his countenance causedher to rethink her plans. She went to the window to view the departure ofthe sisters Bennet. Bingley went back to playing billiards. The crack ofball hitting ball was the only sound in the room.
From the window Caroline watched as Darcy helped Jane into the carriage.He lingered a few moments talking with Miss Elizabeth Bennet before finallykissing her hand and seeing safely into the carriage. He dallied at thecarriage side until a maidservant came running up from below stairs. Shebobbed a quick curtsey and would have scrambled into the carriage whenDarcy gallantly offered his hand and assisted the maid into the carriage.As the carriage drove off he turned to the window, as if sensing Caroline'seyes upon him. He tipped his hat to the window, then went for a walk inthe garden to cool his......thoughts.
In the carriage Sara could not help blurting out "Oh Miss Eliza, ain't youa lucky one!" Elizabeth smiled and agreed. "Not that Mr. Bingley is not afine gentleman also, Miss Jane" Sara felt compelled to add.
Back in the billiard room Caroline watched Darcy wander into the garden.Charles no longer seemed threatening, not with thought of Darcy being inneed of her company. She was making excuses to her brother so could rushto join him, but Bingley was quicker. He placed the cue stick in front ofher.
"Charles, what are doing?" Caroline asked crossly, pushing aside the stickand making for the door.
"They are getting married."
Caroline stopped. "What are you talking about?" she snapped, very muchafraid she already knew the answer.
"Darcy and Miss Bennet are getting married. The announcement should appearin the papers tomorrow." Charles felt a certain sense of satisfaction atthe look of horror that appeared on her face. It was mean and base of himto take pleasure in her discomfiture but, by God, she deserved it.
"No, it is impossible, Darcy married to that...that....." words failed her,"you are lying. You must be lying."
Bingley looked at her, "I am not lying. I fear I do not have your talentfor that." He then returned to billiard table and sunk the final blackball.
Bingley retrieved his jacket and left her alone in the room.