He hadn’t seen her when he had first entered the building this evening. With too many my unknown people it is hard to spot someone so enchanting from the crowd. He had been walking through the crowd when he had spotted her. He could hardly tear his gaze away from her. Barely looking away before they could make true eye contact. He forced himself to stare straight ahead. When they had made it to the end of the hall he tried his best to spot her in the crowd. He could not have been more grateful for the woman who so audaciously place herself and who he assumed to be her daughters before them. For there she stood. It was a miracle. It was his worst nightmare.
He didn’t know what to do with himself. He couldn’t stop glancing her way. Sure she was pretty, but not in the classical sense. He couldn’t keep his eyes away from her. Every time he tried to do so he kept finding himself staring back at her. He forced himself to stand next to Caroline. He didn’t want to intimidate her and was unsure if she even wished to converse with him. He knew many found his height and disposition to be intimidating enough regardless of his rank. That didn’t mean he couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Bingley had just asked the prettier of the two Bennet sister to dance leaving the other to stand alone for a moment. He took the opportunity to stand next to her watching the dancers start with the music.
“Do you dance Mr. Darcy?”
“Not if I can help it.” He could hardly believe that he actually said it out loud.
“But for you, Ms. Bennet,-“ His stupid mouth kept talking. What was he doing? “- I believe I could be persuaded.”
Lizzie was caught off guard. She had been right on the verge of scurrying away. She bit her tongue afraid that her own mouth would be turned against her. She settled for nodding her agreement towards before turning look at the dance floor. Fighting hard to suppress the blush and smile on her face.
He looked down at her for a moment before smiling for a moment. So he didn’t just stick his foot in his own mouth again.
He turned and noticed that Caroline had stormed away. Well at the very least it helped him get away from her.
He was happy to find that the next dance was not as fast paced as the others.
“Mr. Darcy if you keep frowning like that many people will get the sense that you do not enjoy parties.”
“Ms. Bennet?” he was startled out of his thoughts. Had he been frowning.
“It is a ball after all. You should be enjoying yourself.”
“I must say I hardly ever go to public ball what exactly are we meant to do?”
“The same as a private ball. Have fun.” She seemed to have taken a teasing sort of tone and he couldn’t help, but let out a laugh. Clearly they have not been to the same balls.
“Of course, Ms. Bennet. How foolish of me.” He offered her a small smile at least letting her know that he was enjoying himself. They finished the rest of the dance in silence. She curtsey before leaving him. How interesting this woman is?
Bingley managed to catch up with him again and began speaking the elder Ms. Bennet’s praises.
“But her sister Elizabeth is very agreeable, is she not?”
“Of course. Actually she reminds me of you.”
“How so?” Bingley looked at him confused.
“She also believes I should smile more.” Mr. Bingely grasped his shoulder hardly believing his ears.
"You are telling me that someone managed to gather the courage to tell you to your face. My word, I should send her a gift." Mr. Darcy's permit frown seemed to deepen at his friends excitement. Mr. Darcy continued his ongoing argument as to why he should not have to smile in public setting. Just because he is not smiling does not mean he is not having a good time.
They were dragged into a conversation with her mother. Ms. Bennet seemed to be trying to keep her mother more restraint in her conversation topics. Finally managing to steer the conversation into a safer directions.
“I thought that poetry was the food of love.”
“Of a fine, stout, love it may. However, everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.''
“Then what do you recommend encouraging affection?”
“Dancing.” She smiled with her words. “Even if one’s partner is determined to pout throughout an entire party.”
“Now I wouldn’t say I pouted throughout the entire party.”
“You certainly weren’t inclined to say that you were happy to be here either. You can certainly hurt a ladies feelings that way.”
“Then I apologies, Ms. Bennet. I’ll happily accept your hand in the next dance to make up for our first one.”
Lizzie and Jane were lying in bed later that evening chatting about the party.
“Mr. Bingley is just what a young man ought to be.” She said it so quietly as if she was meant to keep this knowledge a secret. She looked at lizzie.
“Sensible, good humored-“
“Handsome and conveniently rich, as well.” She was trying to deny that notion, though it was nice that he had a comfortable amount of money.
“While I completely agree with you it would only take the strongest of loves to gain my hand in marriage and it is for that reason that I shall end up an old maid.” They broke into a fit a giggles hardly containing themselves before moving on to Lizzie's evening.
“Lizzie, you never told me how you managed to grab a hold of Mr. Darcy for what seemed like half of the night.”
Lizzie rolled her eyes at her sister echoing back to her.
“We were hardly together for half the night. Besides It's not like he is actually interested in me. A gentleman of Mr. Darcy's pedigree would marry someone of much higher status than me.”
She bit her thumb hardly allowing herself a moment of picturing what life might be like as Mrs. Darcy.
“I doubt we shall ever speak again.”
“Lizzie he danced with you. Twice.” Lizzie nodded already been made aware of that fact.
“Lizzie he only danced with you.” She kept nodding before the words had finally suck into her head. Oh. Oh.
Jane was the first to start laughing at her before they both a mess of giggles. Thinking of what their lives might look like outside of Meriton.
Mr. Darcy had never rejoiced more for someone’s misfortune than he had right now. While Mr. Darcy certainly would wish someone as sweet as Ms. Jane Bennet any sort of misfortune, he certainly rejoiced at the sight Ms. Elizabeth Bennet’s arrival. Just the sight of her seemed to take his breathe away. Her face had a healthy flush and he could hardly look at the beauty before him.
“My goodness Ms. Bennet. Did you walk here.” She nodded a proud smile appearing on her face.
“I did.” It was gone in a moment.
“I’m so sorry. How is my sister?”
“She’s upstairs.” Why did he answer so quickly? She smiled at him then.
“Thank you.” She left to look for her sister. He could hardly move doing nothing more than staring after her. At least Caroline was good enough to pull him to his senses.
“Did you see her hem. Six inches deep in mud.” He managed to seat himself and resume his lunch. He hadn’t even noticed her dress much less if there was even mud on it. He could hardly tear his gaze away from her bright eyes.
It was later while Jane was asleep that they all gather into the drawing room. Elizabeth grateful to however thought to pack her a book or two while she was staying her to help tend to her sister.
Caroline began to speak to Mr. Darcy. She tried to focus more on her book than their conversation, but it became quite clear that Caroline must be the center of attention. At least only Mr. Darcy attention.
He glanced over at Elizabeth’s book in her hand.
“And, of course, she must constantly improve her mind with extensive reading.” Elizabeth slammed her book shut setting it down next to her.
“I am no longer surprised at you only six accomplished women. I wonder know at your knowing any.” Mr. Darcy paused in his writing.
“Are you so severe on your own sex?”
“I have never met such a woman. She would certainly be a fearsome creature to behold.”
“Miss Elizabeth, won’t you take a turn about the room with me.” She was blessed to not have her blush become so apparent to the others in the room. She seemed to speak everyone even though she asked for Elizabeth’s response.
“Won’t you join us Mr. Darcy.”
“Caroline you can only have two motives.” He paused in his writing lest he write the wrong thing. “I would interfere with either.” Caroline leaned close to Lizzie and mock whispered.
“What can he mean.” He finished his thought while Lizzie laughed at Caroline.
“Our surest way of disappointing him would be to ask him nothing about.” She was right of course. Caroline egged him on anyways. He set his quill down.
“Either you two are in each other confidence and have secret affairs to discuss, or are conscious of your figures which appear to the greatest advantage by walking. To the first, I shall only get in you. If the second, I can admire you better from here.” He went back to writing his letter.
“Miss Elizabeth how shall we punish him for such a speech.” Caroline let go of Elizabeth going to stand on one side of Mr. Darcy’s writing table.
“We could always laugh at him.” He nearly held his breathe with how close she was standing in front of him.
“Oh no. Mr. Darcy is not to be teased.” Lizzie took another step towards him.
“Too proud, Mr. Darcy? And would you consider pride a fault or a virtue, sir?” She was looking down at him. A new vantage point for her he was sure. She appeared to be studying him waiting for his reply.
“That I could not say.”
“Because we are doing our best to find a fault in you.”
“Maybe it’s that I find it hard to forgive the follies and vices of others, or their offense with me. My good opinion once lost is lost forever.” She smiled at him then. Possibly surprised by his response.
“Oh dear, I cannot tease you about that. What a shame for I dearly love to laugh.” Caroline of course had to mock her then. Lizzie went and sat back down resuming her reading trying her best to forget Caroline’s petty comment. Forcing her to remember her family’s own simplicity and lack of propriety in society.
Her mother and three younger sisters came to retrieve them later the next day. Caroline had decided she needed to have one last conversation with Lizzie before she left.
“Thank you for your stimulating company. It has been most instructive.” They exchanged their goodbyes before she gave her final acknowledgements to Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. She stepped into the carriage grabbing his hand to help steady her. She noticed how small her hand was in his. She looked down watching as his hand fell away and stared as he walked back into the estate. How interesting.
They didn’t see each other for a few weeks. He was busy helping Bingley with something or another. He had seen her on his way with Bingley to their house. It had seemed only right to escort the two women. The had settled in the drawing room waiting for the kettle finish. Mr. Bingley. Apparently Bingley had an important matter to discuss with Mr. Bennet. It was still quite early in the day. Jane already offered to include them in their lunch knowing with Lydia and Kitty still in town that there would be two empty spaces. No doubt it would please her mother to be able to boast a lunch with both Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. And so soon as well.
It was as they were leaving that Lydia and Kitty made their appearance alongside a stranger.
“Mr. Bingley how do you like my ribbons for your ball.” Lydia began prancing around as though she were a child and now a grown lady out in society. Mr. Bingley, however, was kind enough to indulge her.
“I’m so sorry I do not believe we have been introduce to your friend.”
“A Mr. Wickham. How do you do.” Mr. Darcy tensed from the doorway. Elizabeth could only help, but watch from deeper in the house unaware as to the situation beginning to grow outside.
“Mr. Bingley, you must be sure to invite Mr. Wickham to your ball this evening.” She was continuing to act as though she were a child too rambunctious for her own good. Lizzie decided now would be a good time to interject.
“Lydia, I distinctly remember that this is Mr. Bingley’s Ball and he may choose to invite whomever he pleases.”
“It’s fine, Miss Elizabeth. Of course you should come Mr. Wickham.” Mr. Wickham seemed to nod in thanks before making his way to leave. Quite hastily too from what Lizzie could tell. She glanced over to Mr. Darcy again. He seemed tense. And quieter than he usually is. Lizzie cleared her throat.
“Mr. Darcy I was wondering if I could persuade you into making me that list of books I ought to read. From what you were describing it sounds like a daunting list. I don’t even know if father would have half of what you recommend. He looked at her then. Nearly whipping his head around when she first said his name. He paused taking in a slight breathe before answering her.
“Of course, Miss Elizabeth. I would be happy to lend you any and all books that you would require.” He followed her to her father’s study before pulling out some parchment and ink. He let his mind focus on the different authors or poets who would be suitable for Ms. Bennet’s taste. He was about halfway through his list when she spoke again.
“Now I am not too great at being able to reads one inner mind, but I take it you know the Mr. Wickham who escorted my sisters home?” She seemed more focused on the spines of the books in her father’s study. That was fine he could pretend he was more invested in making the list.
“Yes. I have the great privilege of knowing Mr. Wickham.” He nearly spit out his name. fully intent on never having to speak it again.
“We grew up together. His father managed our estate. When my father died he had set aside some money to Wickham thinking that he was planning to take the cloth.” He underlined a few authors for her to start with.
“Upon my father’s death he announced he had no intention of taking orders and demanded the living, to which he was given. He then gambled it away in weeks.” He took a shaky breath before folding the paper after letting the ink dry.
“Let me say the next few encounters I had with the man were less than favorable.” He walked over to her handing her the piece of parchment.
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy.” She held the paper delicately between her hands lest she fidget. Had he stood this close to her before.
“I do not wish to see Mr. Wickham harm your family as he has harmed others.” She looked up at him. He seemed tormented, as though he were trying to let on more than he was saying. Mr. Bingley knocked on the open door.
“Darcy, the horses were brought round. Are you ready?”
“I’ll be right there, Bingley. I was just giving Ms. Bennet a reading list.”
“Ah I’m sure if anyone can manage Mr. Darcy’s recommendation, I expect Ms. Bennet to rise to the challenge.” She smiled nodding her thanks before saying her goodbyes to the two gentlemen.
“I believe I shall see you gentlemen this evening.”
They left without much of a fuss, but now she was left to deal with the chaos of her family getting ready for a party.