Mr. Darcy's Engagement Dinner
After his engagement to Elizabeth Bennet was announced, Mr. Darcy was naturally invited to Longbourn, the Bennet's home, for dinner. Although eating dinner while seated at Mrs. Bennet's right hand and listening to her conversation seemed, to Mr. Darcy, a way to insure one came home feeling ill, he was determined to be civil for Elizabeth's sake.
Mrs. Bennet, still slightly in awe of Mr. Darcy and his 10 thousand a year, was feeling quite guilty about the way she had spoken of him. "Of course", she thought, "it was all a misunderstanding." But she was afraid Mr. Darcy might not think of it like that.
Dinner passed better than Mr. Darcy or Mrs. Bennet had hoped, as Mrs. Bennet was too nervous to say anything to Mr. Darcy, other than occasionally offering him more food.
After dinner, however, there was no occupation for the mouth other than talking, so talk they must. It was then Mrs. Bennet, more nervous then ever, made the clumsy mistake of trying to lead the conversation.
"Did you like the veal, Mr. Darcy?" Mrs. Bennet wrung her hands, hoping he would find nothing insulting in that question.
"Very much, thank you, Madam," replied Mr. Darcy, surprised at not finding anything insulting in the question. "Veal is one of my favorite dishes."
"Oh, mine too!" Mrs. Bennet said just a little too quickly.
Then thinking she had found a topic for conversation she continued quickly her voice getting higher as she spoke.
"I have always thought veal the best dish in the world and I really must say that there is no better cook for veal than Hill. Why I was once told that..."
Mrs. Bennet glanced at Mr. Darcy to find him staring at her. She faltered under his gaze, cut her sentence short, and shifted in her chair. Then finding nothing else to say, she asked Mr. Darcy if he would like some more tea.
"No thank you madam. I have had quite..."
"Coffee perhaps?" Mrs. Bennet asked hurriedly wringing her hands.
"No thank you, madam," Mr. Darcy said Firmly and coldly, "I do not like nor do I drink coffee."
"Oh I quite agree!" Mrs. Bennet said fervently. Then waving her hands for dramatic affect she added, "coffee completely ruins the taste of any meal, veal most of all I believe."
Mr. Darcy winced, wondering just how long he would have to keep talking to Mrs. Bennet. He glanced at Elizabeth and seeing the pained look on her face, he redoubled his efforts to be civil.
Mrs. Bennet, feeling for some reason that she had said something amiss, jumped back into the conversation by asking if Mr. Darcy really did enjoy the veal.
"Yes, madam, I can assure you that I found the veal truly delightful." Mr. Darcy was making a conscious effort to keep his voice low and steady.
Mrs. Bennet then had the accidental tact to ask if Mr. Darcy's sister Miss Georgiana was in good health.
Mr. Darcy was very found of his sister and Mrs. Bennet's apparent concern for her prompted a very civil reply.
"My sister is in very good health, thank you madam."
Mrs. Bennet, with more sense than one would have credited her with, noticed Mr. Darcy's change of expression and kept the conversation on Miss Darcy.
"I have heard Miss Georgiana plays the piano-forte very well."
Mr. Darcy was almost beginning to think Mrs. Bennet's conversation almost tolerable, when Mrs. Bennet's momentary tact when back to where it came from and she said: "Mary is rather talented musically as well, have you yet heard her play?"
At the first mention of Mary Bennet's piano playing, Mr. Darcy rolled his eyes and the disastrous ball at Netherfield came to mind. Out of the corner of his eye, Mr. Darcy saw Elizabeth stiffen and blush. He could see that the same thought was in her head and her embarrassment surpassed his own.
Mr. Darcy simply replied that he had had the honor of hearing Miss Mary play.
"Why they should play a duet together!" Mrs. Bennet cried.
There was simply no civil response to that, so Mr. Darcy turned to Mr. Bennet and asked, "I was wondering sir, if you could advise me as to the best hunting grounds this season?"
Mr. Bennet was about to reply, when Mrs. Bennet, who had been wringing her hands trying to decide what it was she had said to offend Mr. Darcy, cut in eagerly and too quickly.
"Oh Mr. Darcy I am certain you will have very great luck this season. Indeed I am sure you shall kill the most birds out of anyone. Hundreds at least, no, no thousands, no 10 thousand a year and..." Then Mrs. Bennet realized what she was saying. She turned white then red, brought her hand up to her mouth, pulled it away from her mouth, shifted uncomfortably in her chair, told Kitty to sit up straight, then fell to biting her lips and wringing her hands.
Mr. Darcy looked startled but, for Elizabeth's sake, just rolled his eyes and looked away.
Then followed a moment of silence broken by Mrs. Bennet. Hoping to redeem herself in Mr. Darcy's opinion, she asked after another member of his family.
"Your aunt, Lady Catherine, was well, I hope, when last you saw her? Indeed she is such a charming woman. She paid Lizzy such a civil call. There, I think, will be a great friendship!"
While she said this Mr. Darcy was thinking how easy marriages must be, when the couple in question is penniless and without family. With a noble effort, he put this thought out of his head, almost sighed and said, "It is without exaggeration, madam, when I say that you remind me of my aunt."
Mrs. Bennet was delighted. She knew now that Mr. Darcy must like her enormously.
Mrs. Bennet smiled and made a noise somewhere between a laugh and a squeal. She patted Mr. Darcy's hand and almost felt at ease.
Mrs. Bennet at ease is even more dangerous than Mrs. Bennet in a state of nervous excitement. For at that moment she chose to say. "It is only to bad that dear Wickham and Lydia cannot be here to share our happiness over Mr. Bingley and Jane and of course you our dear, dear Mr. Darcy. Why I am..."
Mrs. Bennet had begun to slow down and finally halted to a stop when she saw Mr. Darcy's face. He looked agitated and forbidding.
Mrs. Bennet began to violently wring her hands, trying to think what she had said to so offend and mortify Mr. Darcy.
Mrs. Bennet couldn't see anything wrong with what she had said. So doing what was perhaps the smartest thing she had done that evening she rose and said, "Come girls, I am sure the gentlemen wish to get on to sherry." And with that she left the room.
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