Posted on Thursday, 2 March 2006
Fitzwilliam Darcy was rather put out over the entire situation. The Misses Bennet had remained at Netherfield entirely too long for his comfort. That the eldest Miss Bennet truly was ill and should not be subject to a three mile carriage ride, he accepted. And since she had remained in her room for the duration of her stay, her presence was not such a nuisance to him. The nuisance was her younger sister's continued presence.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet was far too distracting to be allowed to remain at Netherfield. Darcy internally cursed Caroline Bingley who was, ultimately, responsible for this situation. If Miss Bingley had not invited the elder Miss Bennet to dine at Netherfield that day; if she had taken better care of Miss Bennet once she arrived at Netherfield; if she had done her duty and personally cared for her ill guest; if she had taken any of these or a dozen other precautions there would have been no need for Miss Elizabeth to come to Netherfield to nurse her sister.
Darcy had considered retiring immediately after dinner rather than subject himself to Miss Elizabeth's determined presence and the aggravating effect it had on Miss Bingley's attentions towards himself, as if the woman wanted to make her new rival appear to best advantage. But, to his own chagrin, he easily talked himself out of that plan with embarrassingly transparent arguments that made him wish to forget the matter had ever been up for debate.
He entered the drawing room and, after the requisite pleasantries, observed the scene. Miss Bingley was in conversation with her sister, Mr. Hurst was asleep, Mr. Bingley was going over the evening paper while absently patting his dog's head and Miss Elizabeth Bennet sat off to one side quietly reading.
Darcy paused as he passed her, allowing him the opportunity to recognize her book as Bingley's Shakespearean library. He briefly admired the way she devoted all her concentration to her reading, her focus was such that she had not even noticed him standing near her.
"Do you enjoy Shakespeare, Miss Bennet?" he asked quietly.
She appeared startled at his question, "Yes, very much." She returned to her reading.
Darcy was surprised that she did not try to continue the conversation. Most women that he knew would not stop talking to him if he made any sort of remark t them at all. "It is my belief that Shakespeare is the greatest of all English authors," he continued.
Miss Elizabeth looked up at him again, "I do not presume to be so well-read as you Mr. Darcy, but that does seem to be a reasonable statement." She then returned again to her book.
Mr. Darcy frowned while he normally enjoyed Miss Elizabeth's coyness, at time like these it could be most vexing. He sat in the chair next to hers and glanced over to see which work she was reading. "Hamlet is one of my favorite of his plays. Do you enjoy it?"
She looked up at him again and it was all he could do to not stare into her beautiful eyes. "If I did not I would not be reading it presently."
Miss Bingley had become aware of the conversation and took this opportunity to enter it. "I simply adore Hamlet. It is truly one of Mr. Shakespeare's greatest works."
Darcy suppressed a sigh. "Yes it is."
"And so tragic, the way Hamlet's uncle kills him after he goes mad and kills Polonius."
Miss Elizabeth raised an eyebrow and Darcy mentally shrugged, Miss Bingley's commentaries ranged from irritating to amusing and he could not yet determine which this one would be. At the very least, it gave him the opportunity to confirm his suspicions that Romeo and Juliet was the only Shakespeare his friend's sister had any great knowledge of. "Yes, especially when Hamlet himself becomes a ghost and begins to haunt the castle with his ancestors."
"It was as if the family was cursed."
"I believe that they were."
"Oh yes of course, by the witch. What was her name?"
"Ophelia?" By this point Miss Elizabeth had closed her book and was observing the conversation between Darcy and Miss Bingley with amusement.
"Yes, yes Ophelia. It was most cruel of her. The way that she, a nobody tried to turn the head of the prince, when even her own father warned her that nothing could come of it. The two of them were most unequal." Miss Bingley sent a triumphant glance towards her rival, who schooled her features to prevent herself from revealing the hilarity of the idea that she would have any designs on the disagreeable Mr. Darcy.
"But she paid the price for it."
"Of course she did. When Hamlet's ghost came to her."
"Yes, though I feel sorry for her brother when he found the body."
"That part has always moved me greatly. He was I suppose ignorant of her doings and truly did feel a love for his younger sister. And to discover his sister's dead body immediately upon returning from Paris." Miss Bingley was pleased to see that Mr. Darcy's attention did appear fixed on her alone, though felt some trepidation when she saw the amusement in the country girl's eyes.
"It has never surprised me that he went mad after the ordeal and was killed himself."
"I know the poor young man's heartbreak at finding his father and sister killed."
"The queen was also quite devastated when she found out that her son was killed."
"Yes, though killing herself was a bit extreme, though I suppose it couldn't be a tragedy if she didn't kill herself in her remorse over her son's death and her realization that her improper marriage caused it."
"Though her death did cause Claudius to realize the error of his ways and vow to spend the rest of his days trying to repent of his sin."
"Yes, his closing monologue is one of my favorites in the entire play. It shows a true change of heart for him."
"Yes I believe it does. What do you think Miss Bennet?"
By this point Miss Bennet, did not trust herself to remain much longer in the drawing room without giving the company some reason to suspect her mirth. "I think that your story is quite delightful but that I must return to Jane and see if she is in need of anything. Goodnight."