Posted on 2022-01-28
Just imagine for a second that Mr Bingley could be a little less impulsive and more sensitive to Mr Darcy’s feelings and sense of propriety.
Bingley is dancing with Jane Bennet, and notices that yet again his friend, Darcy, is not dancing. But as he is enjoying Miss Bennet’s company so much he decides to continue the dance and not approach Darcy until that set is over. At the end of their second dance he asks Miss Bennet to introduce her sister, and then with one Bennet on each arm he walks over to the corner where Darcy appears to be hiding from Miss Bingley.
“Mr Darcy, may I present Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”
Darcy takes each hand lightly, briefly and gives a stiff very formal bow.
“Darcy, do you remember me saying how I’d heard of the beauty of Mr Bennet’s daughters and how he’d kept them locked away when I paid him a visit?”
At this Jane blushed but Elizabeth could not keep herself from laughing aloud.
Darcy tilted his head slightly in Elizabeth’s direction “You seem to find my friend’s words amusing, Miss Bennet.”
“It cannot be news to you that you and your sisters are considered by many the beauty of the neighbourhood.”
As Bingley is speaking Darcy looks from Elizabeth to Jane back to Elizabeth obviously taking a measure of their beauty, but Elizabeth has hidden her crooked smile behind her fan, so all he can see is the brightness of her eyes.
“No, although I do believe that is a rumour spread primarily by our own mother. It is the idea of our father locking us away that causes mirth, Mr Bingley.”
“It is more the case that my father locks himself away, seeking the sanctuary of his book room in a house full of young ladies. He met you in his library did he not Mr Bingley? There is hardly enough space in that room for one of us to sit with him, you must admit?”
“Indeed it was rather full.”
“Your father has a great many books?” asked Darcy
“He collects them, and the room is a little small for his collection, but let us not talk of books at a ball, save that conversation for another day. We had much better talk of horses at a ball.”
As the music starts up Bingley turns to Darcy – “You had better ask Miss Bennet to dance if you want to avoid a second with Caroline.”
To which Mr Darcy concedes, though still confused as to which is the elder Miss Bennet, and at first uncertain which lady he should be asking to dance until Bingley turned to Elizabeth “Miss Bennet you promised me this dance.”
To begin with Jane & Darcy are quiet smiles, watching and listening as Elizabeth & Bingley are chatter and laughter just head of them in the set. Then remembering Elizabeth’s final comment “We had much better talk of horses”, Darcy asks Jane if Elizabeth is a great rider?
“Oh no she would much rather read than ride. She fell from a horse when she was 11 and has scarcely ridden since. I believe she only said that because she believes that gentlemen like to talk of horses.”
Jane asks Darcy if he has a great many horses and how he chooses which to travel with. And so with talk of the tempers of each of his favourite horses the dance passes quickly and as they follow Bingley & Elizabeth to the punch bowl, Darcy turns the conversation back to Elizabeth, her dislike of horses and the details of the incidient with the horse. 'Were you badly hurt?"
After her story is told and the laughter subsides, Bingley again tells Darcy he must dance the next, this time with Elizabeth and asks Jane who he should dance with next, and they two wander off to meet Miss Long.
“Do you mock me Mr Darcy? I am sure you are a very strong rider, but you are a grown man. I was only small.”
“Indeed no, I wouldn’t mock you for being thrown. I myself must have come off my horse 20 times in the first 5 years, and perhaps another 5 times in the last 20.” And as he is telling of some of the more interesting falls and scrapes Miss Bingley comes to join them, resting her hand on Mr Darcy’s arm.
“Miss Elizabeth, were you not told to just get back on the horse so as to not be afraid of them?”
“It is no great loss, we have just the one saddle horse and she is a stubborn beast, I never much enjoyed riding before she threw me. So really I’d much rather walk, and it is not often I go so very far that I need to go on horseback. Most times there are enough of us to take a carriage when we visit neighbours.
“But for pleasure, to see the countryside?”
“A walk is perfect for that.”
Darcy offers to fetch Caroline a drink and returns just in time to take Elizabeth into the next dance.
They dance in silence for a short time.
“Did you just arrive today Mr Darcy?”
“Then have you and Miss Bingley had a chance to ride out in the countryside?”
“No, though I’m not certain Mr Bingley has a horse here for his sisters to ride. I hope to ride with Charles often during my stay. Would you have recommendations for the best scenery?”
She describes several, asks if Mr Bingley has hired local men for his stables and assured him they will be able to give directions for many of the more popular routes.
“And for the best jumps?” he asks with a smile.
“No, on the technicalities I cannot help you, but I believe Sir William and his sons could advise you on that.”
Another pause for the dance.
“Miss Bingley mentioned your sister.”
“And is she a great rider too?”
“She is. She has good control of her horse, enjoys the hunt. Though she is sometimes reckless, fearless almost.”
“Does she get into some fine scrapes?”
“None that I could tell you of.”
More silence. To Elizabeth he seemed sad or distressed by talking of his sister. Definitely Darcy was much less willing to talk and frowning considerably more after the mention of his sister, she concluded their relationship might not be a good one, and decided not to raise the subject of Miss Darcy again.
As the dance ends Elizabeth asks if Darcy has met Sir William Lucas, and introduces them, leaving Darcy with Sir William and chats with Charlotte for a while until they both leave to join their next dance partners. Darcy allows Sir William to introduce him to a few other keen horsemen. He finds his eyes occasionally following one particular lady down the dance, but tries so hard to control himself that he believes no one else would have noticed, least of all the lady herself. And although Mr Darcy does not dance again until the very last, he is seeming to enjoy himself enough that Bingley does not disturb him with more entreaties to find a dance partner.
Shortly before the last dance, Miss Bingley approaches with Mrs Hurst.
“Mr Darcy, can you pull yourself away from this conversation for another dance with your best friend’s sister?”
“Of course,” he replies, and turns to Louisa, “Mrs Hurst, if you husband has not already claimed you, shall we?”