Convenience of that kind
Chapter 1 The Beginning
Chapter 2 The Inconvenience at Longbourn
Chapter 3 The Inconvenience of Town
Chapter 4 The Inconvenience of Travel
Chapter 5 The Inconvenience of Pemberley
Chapter 6 The Convenience of Marriage
Chapter 1 The Beginning
"By all means," cried Bingley; "let us hear all the particulars, not forgetting their comparative height and size; for that will have more weight in the argument, Miss Bennet, than you may be aware of. I assure you, that if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself, I should not pay him half so much deference. I declare I do not know a more awful object than Darcy, on particular occasions, and in particular places; at his own house especially, and of a Sunday evening, when he has nothing to do." (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 10.)
“One might wonder at the two of you being friends at all, Mr Bingley, considering the difference in your dispositions?” Elizabeth tilted her head and watched Bingley intently.
“Oh, I am at his disposal, as is his cousin, the Colonel and many more friends in town. His vast knowledge of estate management, investments and politics, not to forget his many great connections, he is invaluable to those who he counts as a friend. There is nothing he will not do for those who are lucky enough to enter his inner circle. I count myself fortunate indeed to be considered a friend and I am thrilled when I, in a small way, can repay some of his efforts towards securing my place in society. In fact, he rescued me from a very unfortunate alliance, this spring. A shrewd, young lady had set her cap on me and had Darcy not intervened... I might have found myself in a very undesirable circumstance.”
“I wonder why he has not married and secured a lasting convenience of that kind?”
Mr Darcy scoffed. He was not particularly pleased by being discussed as he was not in the room, despite the lavish praise that was heaped upon him.
“Marry? I thank you, no! I have not avoided the daughters of matchmaking mama's for years, only to succumb voluntarily.”
“Really?” At Miss Elizabeth’s astonished utterances, Bingley jumped back into the discussion.
“He is much sought after, I can assure you. He never has a moments peace when we are attending functions in town. Every eligible, and some not so eligible ladies hunt him down like a prey. It is a miracle he has not been caught.”
“Yet,” Elizabeth muttered under her breath, just a little too loud. Mr Darcy heard her.
“Yet, Miss Elizabeth? Are you doubting my ability to remain unmarried?”
Elizabeth folded her hands demurely in her lap before raising her eyes, to meet his penetrating gaze.
“My father thought he was just as clever. I guess he would have preferred a choice in the matter before he was outwitted by a solicitors daughter of mean understanding. Served him well for his supercilious attitude towards the fairer sex though. It would have been better if he had made a choice of someone adequate with some redeeming qualities than to wait until he got caught but as I am the result of the mésalliance, I can hardly complain.
Surely there must be a lady in your exalted circle of friends that it would not be a punishment to spend an occasional evening with? You could forego dancing altogether and stay at the card games all night or stalk the periphery of the dance floor, uninterrupted. You would have someone to run your houses and aid you with the caretaking of your sister. She must be nearing her come out and some female guidance in that respect must be welcome or are you planning to take her to the modiste yourself?
Teach her to curtsy before the queen? It may take days to learn to walk backwards with several yards of train behind you. I speak of experience, my aunt nearly gave up teaching me.”
Elizabeth smirked at the end of her tirade. She was known to occasionally express opinions that were not her own, in her less than honourable pursuit of making sport of others.
Mr Darcy never knew what hit him but felt a strange familiarity with some of her expressions. He had a nagging feeling of something he could not quite catch but it left him unsettled. He remained deep in thought for the rest of the evening. A little seedling of doubt had been sown in his mind and he continued to ponder the matter after he retired for the night.
‘It might very well be an asset, to be wed. Under the condition that the lady was not too demanding, fawning, prone towards insipid conversations of lace and ribbons or unpleasant to look upon.
Nice teeth was a must, an avid reader would be beneficial as readers seemed to lean more towards quietness than conversation. He had contemplated leaving Pemberley to Georgiana and her offspring but he had an ingrown sense that it was his duty to provide an heir from his own loins. Regardless of the distasteful notion that was. His fortune was more than adequate but one would never turn down an opportunity to fill up one's coffers.
The thought of leaving the responsibility for the household matters in someone else's hands was quite tempting. It would release some of his time for more pleasurable pursuits.
Being able to forgo his escort duties, every time Georgiana had an appointment with her modiste, haberdasher and whatnot would be an added blessing. The most pressing reason to consider the unpalatable notion of entering the wedded state was due to an event in spring. A fifteen-year-old chatterbox, from Georgiana's school, had managed to trick him into the library alone, under the pretence that Georgiana had urgent need of him. He had stupidly followed her and had she not been a lowly tradesman’s daughter but a daughter of a peer, he would have been utterly trapped. Fortunately for him, not so fortunately for the girl in question, he had refused to succumb to her father's insistence that a speedy marriage should take place...
Immediately removed Georgiana from the school and set her up in her own establishment which had not turned out so well.
It had ended in disaster as he had been grievously deceived by the companion he and Richard had chosen.
Better not dwell on that thought too long as the event gave him no credit.
A wife could be an advantage if he could find someone with some experience with young girls at their most trying age. He could leave them both at Pemberley with the good conscience that his beloved sister was properly taken care of.
If only he could find the right lady...
Before he fell asleep, the thought of the impertinent stranger with the witty remarks who had been a little too familiar with her statements, made him decide to not pay her any more attention. Lest she would begin interfering with other aspects of his life. He had plenty of relatives that were working on him in all matter of concerns, he was not in need of anymore inconvenience of that kind.
The next morning, Mr Darcy staid true to his conviction and barely uttered a word to the guests of the house and did not even deign to speak above ten words the entire morning. After bidding them farewell, he reverted back to his room, to write a letter to Georgiana on the latest events. A rendition of the ridiculous conversation, the night prior, would surely cheer her up.
The eldest Bennet sisters had been home but a few days when a surprise visitor turned up on Longbourn’s doorstep.
It was not a surprise to all the inhabitants of Longbourn as Mr Bennet had received a missive, a fortnight past, with the information of the dreaded cousin and heir to Longbourn's imminent arrival. He had conveniently neglected to mention it to the rest of the household, for reasons only known to himself.
The chance encounter between Mr Darcy and Mr Wickham earlier in the day had intrigued Elizabeth's curiosity. She did not mind the least when Mr Wickham sought her out in a quiet corner of the room. He soon had her in rapt attention with a scandalous tale of Mr Darcy who had deprived him of his rightful inheritance. She was swallowing the whole sordid tale right up until the moment when Mr Wickham mentioned Mr Darcy is engaged to his cousin Miss Anne de Bourgh. A split second of indecisiveness culminated in her, impulsively opting to call him out. She laughed softly before addressing the issue.
“Come now, Mr Wickham... I have only known Mr Darcy for a month and even I know of his reluctance, nay abhorrence towards the married state. You have to come up with something more plausible than that. You had me fooled for a while though but on second thought... If the late Mr Darcy had left you the living, the executor of the will would certainly have made sure it was implemented. If it was only vaguely implied or under certain conditions, I guess the conditions have not been met or some impediment or other made it impossible. You should write a book, Mr Wickham, your storytelling abilities are fabulous. I found your story, highly entertaining.”
The flash of anger that had infused Mr Wickham’s countenance had not escaped Elizabeth and she was worried she had gone too far when a wide, insincere smile, spread on his countenance.
“You have a keen mind, Miss Elizabeth. Please excuse me, Lieutenant Denny needs some rescue at the card table.”
‘Yes, leave,’ Elizabeth thought. To conjecture up such a malicious story, with the obvious intent of destroying a respectable man’s reputation, did not sit well with Elizabeth and she immediately decided to warn her friends about his penchant towards fabricated gossip. It would not do if someone should believe him as Mr Darcy had not left the Meryton society with the best first impression, nor a second one if she was to be honest, but that was not a valid reason for spreading flat out lies.
Mr Wickham avoided her for the rest of the evening, which suited Elizabeth just fine. She did notice his preference for her most silly sister and made a mental note of enlightening her sisters as soon as they were home. If he could lie in such a charming way, there were probably more wiles he was culpable of...
The evening of the Netherfield ball were upon them and the Bennets arrived fashionably late but, unfortunately for Elizabeth, in time for the first set that had been previously claimed by her odious cousin.
Elizabeth seriously contemplated delaying their departure infinitely to escape the dreaded half-hour but it would not be fair to Jane.
Jane was smiling shyly when she thought no one was looking, blushing sweetly when Bingley's name was mentioned and had taken prodigiously care of her appearance before the ball. Not that it was needed, Jane would look beautiful in a burlap sack with no adornments whatsoever but the material point was that her sister was in love and far be it for Elizabeth to put sticks in the wheels of her sister’s chance of happiness. She would meet enough resistance from his sisters and his friend. The least Elizabeth could do was to be accommodating and let nature to take its course.
The receiving line was thinning out when the Bennets reached the Bingleys. Mr Bingley wasted no time in securing Jane's hand for the first set while Elizabeth was looking frantically around for an escape route, none was to be had though and she capitulated to her fate while Caroline bemoaned her brother’s abandonment for the first set. Mr Darcy seemed unmoved by her not so subtle hints for a dance partner.
Unfortunately, it only made her more desperate...
“Who is your partner for the first set Mr Darcy?”
“Miss Bingley, you know I never dance the first set at any ball.”
“But, Mr Darcy, my brother is treating me abominably! The mortification of being abandoned as hostess, at his first ball in the neighbourhood, without a dance partner? I will be the laughing stock of the neighbourhood. Look they are already snickering at me behind their fans.”
Darcy let his gaze travel the room and there were indeed several smirks and titters about the room, pointed at their direction. He could not let his friend’s little sister be treated in such an infamous manner.
Darcy bowed and extended his hand towards Miss Bingley who eagerly latched on with all her might.
With good reason, as it turned out. The dance had been promised to a miffed Sir William Lucas although Miss Bingley claimed he had misunderstood and she procured proof that she had written his name on the second set on her dance-card.
The reason for the smirks and tittering also became obvious to Mr Darcy when he turned to escort the well pleased cunning lady to the dance floor.
Behind him, Elizabeth struggled to help a young ungainly man from toppling over his own legs as he had bowed a tad too deep towards the aforementioned enchantress.
His mood plummeted to a previously unknown low, even for such unpleasantness as a ball. He, who prided himself of his ability to avoid entrapment had just been duped by a much less savvy opponent than he deemed himself to be.
The dance continued in stony silence from one towering dance partner, utterly wasted on the chattering female partner which tattled on relentlessly about the splendour of the room and the insipidness of the other couples.
Not until the spellcaster dancing with the graceless parson was mentioned did he listen to her rant.
“Poor Eliza, dancing with her clumsy cousin. I hear they are soon to be engaged if the mother is anything to go by.
Perhaps it is the cousin, Mr Collins, who deserves our compassion.
Eliza has a sharp tongue and she has been wielding it unencumbered around Meryton. I heard from Mrs Nichols that she had incited one of the officers at Mrs Phillips card party. Perhaps you have met him when you dined with the officers. He is in the Derbyshire militia, a lieutenant Wickham?”
Caroline did not wait for a reply, neither did she notice the stiffening in Mr Darcy's posture. She was too engrossed in sharing malicious gossip about the fine-eyed Eliza to pay attention.
“She had laughed at his childhood woes, she must be utterly deprived of feeling. I am not surprised as I have noticed a conceited sort of independence in her manners.”
Caroline finally drew breath and looked towards her adversary. Elizabeth’s cheeks were flushed with embarrassment and she closed her eyes and bit her lip as her cousin stepped on her slipper clad toes for the umpteenth time. The look of unmitigated relief that spread across her countenance as the second set ended was unmistakable. She gave her cousin a swift curtsy, turned and fled to the sanctuary of her father’s presence.
Mr Bennet looked thoroughly amused and expressed his delight to his daughter who did not appreciate the sentiment.
“This is no time to be missish, my Lizzy. We are at a ball no less. Time to be merry and let others laugh at us as we laugh at them in return.”
Elizabeth left her father side as the dreaded cousin had spotted her retreat and was heading in their direction. She immediately chose to saunter the outskirts of the ballroom in the opposite direction which offered the additional allurement of her friend Charlotte.
“Charlotte, I am so glad you are here. You look absolutely stunning, is it a new gown?”
Elizabeth grabbed both Charlotte hands and held on for dear life.
Charlotte could feel the tension in her friends iron grip and decided to take her mind off the humiliating spectacle she had just made on the ballroom floor.
“Yes, it is. Not that it will do me any good but my mother insisted...
What is it that I hear, Elizabeth. Offending one of the officers?”
“I would not if he had not told me such a ludicrous story. He had me fooled for a bit. I was quite drawn to his tale of woe, regardless of the impropriety of sharing such private sentiments with a complete stranger...
As it is with all liars, they eventually reveal themselves with inaccuracies or as in this instance, a flat out lie.
He tried to convince me that Mr Darcy was engaged to be married to his cousin, Miss Anne de Bourgh. Why he was sharing this with me, I do not know but I knew he was lying because I do not believe I have ever met a man, less inclined to marry...”
Charlotte was trying to silence Elizabeth but it was too late as the man in question had reached them.
“Miss Elizabeth? May I have the pleasure of dancing the supper set with you?”
Elizabeth had had a ready refusal on her tongue because the third set was promised to Mr Bingley. The supper set, on the other hand, lay unclaimed on her dance-card.
“You may,” was all she managed to stutter out before he turned his back on her and walked away.
Elizabeth stood rooted to the spot. ‘Had she not had enough humiliation for one night? Now she had to dance with the insufferable Mr Darcy as well. What could he mean by it? When had she gone from tolerable but not handsome enough, to be acceptable to dance with?”
Darcy had his motives. Having danced the first, somewhat symbolic set with Miss Bingley. He decided that he had better dance all the other sets, that one could ladle with intentions, with different ladies. Throwing any speculators off the shrewd Miss Bingley's plan.
Who he would choose for the last set, he had not decided but Miss Elizabeth’s discerning mind had caught his attention by ratting out Mr Wickham. Not many had the wherewithal to question that mans glib tongue...
Their dance begun as their last interlude at Netherfield's library, in silence.
As they circled each other in the Sarabande, Elizabeth was of a mind of letting him have his way when the allure of needling him with insipid conversation, won out. He deserved to be as uncomfortable as she.
“Miss Bingley has put a marvellous effort into making a spectacular ball, Mr Darcy. I must say that private ones are much more pleasant than public ones. Now it is your turn to comment, perhaps on the room or the number of couples? I am eagerly awaiting an éclat of proverbs that will amaze the whole room. ”
“Do you and your sisters often walk to Meryton?”
“Yes, we do. When you met us the other day, we had just formed a new acquaintance, a Mr Wickham, are you familiar with the gentleman?”
“Yes, more than I would have preferred. I heard you had outed him on his lies. I must say I am thoroughly impressed by your discerning mind.”
“Did I discern a compliment, Mr Darcy? May I entrust you to catch me if I faint?”
Mr Darcy's posture stiffened which made Elizabeth realise that her comments might be misunderstood.
“Do not worry, Mr Darcy, I never faint. You are safe from me...”
Darcy was not mollified at all but kept a deep frown between his brows.
“I pay the ladies compliments when they are deserved.”
“Of course, Mr Darcy, I did not mean you were lacking in manners. I have often heard you compliment your sister stellar accomplishments and Miss Bingley's skills as a hostess but you must admit that it is a novel experience for me. Tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt, as I am... Oh, not to forget, slighted by other men. It is charitable of you to condescend to such an ordeal as dancing with the savages, Mr Darcy. I am most obliged.”
“You must have a keen sense of hearing Miss Elizabeth.”
“Yes, I am not so advanced in years yet as to have lost my hearing.”
Mr Darcy chuckled.
“Are you never short of an answer Miss Elizabeth?”
“I owe you an apology, Miss Elizabeth. I have been in a foul mood of late, especially at the Meryton assembly, which I had no wish to attend and much less dance. I told an untruth to stop Mr Bingley's pestering. I am heartily sorry that I disparaged your pleasing appearance as an end to a means. I am not flattering myself by making excuses, Miss Bennet. I am trying to explain how I came to behave so abominably towards a lady.”
“Thank you, Mr Darcy.”
Sir William took advantage of the lull in their conversation and interrupted the whole line by stepping in their midst.
“I must congratulate you, Sir. Such superior dancing is rarely to be seen. Allow me to say that your fair partner does not disgrace you and I hope to have this pleasure often repeated when a certain event takes place.”
Sir William had the audacity to wink at Elizabeth who answered with a look of mild disapproval. “Carry on, carry on. I can see those beautiful eyes berating me for my interruption.”
Sir William had nodded towards Mr Bingley and Jane who formed the head of the line of dancers.
Two pair of eyes followed Sir William’s indicated direction.
Delight suffused Elizabeth’s countenance while the gentleman’s countenance portrayed concern. Refocusing on each other as the music ended, it soon became apparent that their sentiments differed vastly.
They clapped politely to thank the musicians that were taking a well-deserved break while the guests adjourned to the dining room.
Mr Darcy held out Elizabeth’s seat as there were hardly enough footmen in the room to accommodate all the ladies.
“Thank you,” Elizabeth uttered primly as Darcy sat down beside her.
Fortunately, her mother was seated at the opposite end of the table.
While Jane and Bingley sat opposite them in quiet conversation. Apparently oblivious to their surroundings.
All things considered, it went well enough. Mr Bingley would be proud of them as no arguments ensued over the soup, fish or partridge. Not that he noticed as he was too occupied with wooing her most beloved sister but, at least, she succeeded in keeping his friend from interfering.