Posted on Thursday, 12 August 2004
Whilst Sir William Lucas, the host of the party, put himself out to impose Elizabeth upon Mr. Darcy, rambling on as he did so about her beauty and desirability as a dance partner, a seemingly bored Mr. Darcy observed the tableau in front of him in complete silence. He listened with only one ear, and his countenance expressed perfect indifference. However, this was but appearance. Mr. Darcy was not bored, not in the very least! One aspect of Miss Elizabeth Bennet's pleasing figure had drawn his full attention: the alluring sight of her low neckline. Her décolletage was a little too daring to be called proper in polite society, he imagined, but utterly tolerable to observe indeed. Mr. Darcy assumed that this was quite acceptable in the less polished society to which Meryton belonged. After all, in this small country town in Hertfordshire it was obvious that savagery had not yet fully developed into civilization.
Admittedly, he would not want his sister Georgiana to make such an exhibition of that particular aspect of her womanly form. But, though a man of principle, he was quite comfortable with the realization that as far as Miss Elizabeth's manner of dress was concerned, he most certainly did not loathe that on which his eyes did feast. Her half exposed, milky white bosom made his heart pound faster whilst a pleasant warmth filled his body to end just beneath the lower jaw, resting on his impeccably white neck cloth. And thus, thanks to this skillfully tied cravat, the evidence of his state of mind was, to his great relief, not visible to Miss Elizabeth's fine eyes. From her neckline his eyes wandered towards her mouth and he focused on the movements of her lips from which the following words escaped: "Indeed, Sir, I have not the least intention to dancing. - I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner."
Awakened from this reverie as he became aware of Miss Bennet's pert voice, he thought this is all very vexing. Now I am obliged to ask her to dance! Such a compliment I would prefer not to pay to any place if I can help it, as I told Sir Lucas moments ago. But it would be exceedingly impolite if I did not. Even within the confinement of this society, I cannot be so offensive as to slight her, nor can I offend her by ignoring Sir Lucas's observation on the impossibility of objecting to a partner such as her. It is rather confusing though that she does not wish to dance, since she seemed to take so much pleasure in it at that appalling assembly. Well, after all, she is tolerable, perhaps even a little more than that and, although I am not really tempted, I can imagine worse things happening to me. At least it will save me from having to converse with Caroline Bingley for at least half an hour.
"Miss Bennet, I would be honoured if you accept to dance with me," he finally spoke with grave propriety when Sir Lucas had exhausted his profuse compliments to her.
"I thank you, no, Mr. Darcy I am not inclined to dance. I beg you excuse me," replied she and she turned away from the gentlemen to seek the company of the officers in a different corner of the room.
And whilst he thanked his good fortune that he was spared the humiliation of dancing amongst low rank officers and Miss Elizabeth's vulgar younger sisters, he noticed to his great surprise that Miss Bennet's unexpected refusal to dance with him amused, rather than insulted him. So she was not inclined to dance! Not even with him, Mr. Darcy of Pemberley, the most eligible bachelor in the country? Apparently that was not enough inducement to her. He could not help but chuckle, and whilst watching in admiration this frank young gentleman's daughter from Hertfordshire, he suddenly felt an unpleasant draught on his neck.
This current of air was occasioned by Miss Bingley's breath, for she had chosen to position herself without a sound behind him and commenced complaining about the tediousness of the party, presuming that he shared her considerations. Discreetly moving his head and the rest of his body away from the unpleasant sensation her breath provoked on his neck, he thought Have you any idea, Miss Caroline Bingley, how tedious and insupportable you are yourself? but instead he replied politely: "I should imagine not. My mind was more agreeably engaged."
Intently looking at the pretty woman who but moments ago had made it clear to him that she was not impressed by him at all, he continued: "I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow."
After learning whose eyes had inspired such reflections, Miss Bingley, astonished, disappointed and excessively jealous, began to make sport of his future felicity in marriage in a tone that betrayed a mélange of sarcasm and grief. However, her brother's friend either did not care or entirely failed to notice. Slightly vexed or perhaps a little envious, he mused: Miss Bennet seems to prefer the company of officers to that of a gentleman. Singular! But what can one expect from a country upstart? I most definitely must put her fine eyes, her light and pleasing figure and her bosom (where a man's eye could feast on forever) out of my mind at once...
Here Mr. Darcy stopped in order to keep further indiscreet thoughts of Miss Bennet, as well as his wounded pride, under good regulation. With a tinge of regret in his voice he whispered to himself: "I dare say, if it were not for the inferiority of her relations, I would be very happy to have so much beauty before me for an indefinite period of time..."