Posted on Thursday, 21 January 1999
Carmel, Cynthia, and Clarise alighted from their carriages and smiled appreciatively at the sight of Netherfield Park. It was a charming house, though not as grand as some, but had an understated elegance about it.
"It seems that our darling younger brother has done nicely. What a charming home! I think it suits him perfectly," beamed Carmel to her younger sisters. Carmel is the oldest of the Bingley siblings.
"Yes, I believe so. I wonder what the society is like here,' pondered Clarise. "Caroline said she is sure that country folk are complete savages." Clarise, the youngest, said wide eyed with fright.
"Once again, dearest, you cannot take Caroline's assertions too seriously. My word, she is just so sour. Nothing pleases her. Cynthia cried. Being a year younger than Caroline, she used to ponder everything Caroline told her seriously. Once she was old enough to form her own opinions she found that Caroline made very harsh judgments that she could not agree with.
"Let's change the subject shall we? We love our sister as well as we love the others. Maybe she's just anxious to marry and settle down. I have great hopes for the young man she wrote me about. I hear nothing but praise of his fine character and have every hope that his goodness will rub off on her. Here comes our dear little brother." Carmel did not want any family squabbles to spoil Charles' happiness with his new home.
"My dear sisters! I cannot tell you how you have been missed! It seems that marriage has done nothing to tarnish the beauty of the most accomplished women in England." Charles praised them as he reached for each hand to kiss.
He continued "Carmel, I hope that you are comfortable here in your present condition while you stay at Netherfield. This will be my first niece or nephew and I want you both to be completely content."
"Oh, I am sure that we will be fine Charles. I am still three months away from needing confinement and I have very little discomfort. The house is quite charmingly situated and I am sure that evidence of your good taste will be ample once we see the interior as well.".
"Oh yes! Please come inside, Caroline and the Hursts are in the drawing room with a friend of mine." As he said this he proffered his arm and Carmel accepted. Charles pridefully walked his sisters into his home.
Upon entering the drawing room, they were pleasantly surprised to see that tea was being served. Polite and affectionate greetings were exchanged between family members and the introductions to Mr. Bingley's friend were made.
"Darcy, allow me to introduce my sisters. Mrs. Carmel Grantly, Mrs. Cynthia Marx, and Mrs. Clarise Kinney. Ladies, this is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley."
Polite bows and curtseys were exchanged. Darcy found the ladies both pretty and agreeable. He thought that Clarise was extremely pretty and had the same modest yet jovial temperament as Bingley. He was impressed with the mild yet motherly manners of Carmel. She seemed to be the only one able to check Caroline's sharp tongue but it was done with a mildness that was not offensive. Cynthia also was very pretty but seemed a bit nervous. He was immediately at ease for he likened her nervousness to the same shyness he and his sister suffered from.
In such company Darcy was quite at home. He was so pleased to meet the rest of Bingley's family for now he could easily understand how Bingley came about the affability of his nature. With the exception of Caroline and the Hursts, Darcy was convinced that Bingley was blessed with a loving family.
He was pleased for Bingley and for himself, for after Georgiana's incident at Ramsgate she seems to be recovering and her spirits are much improved. Georgiana is his closest family and their relationship was very loving, however something was missing. A man of eight and twenty with over $10,000 pounds per annum and a grand estate should want for nothing. But his heart was heavy for some reason and he did not know why. But all was well with the people he loved.
Darcy was smiling softly as he thought fondly of the people he cared so dearly for. He was not aware that his smile was cast in the general direction of Caroline who was eager to notice his gaze upon her however, vacant it was.
Carmel leaned into Caroline, "Your young man is very impressive! An incomparable match. So handsome and pleasant and obviously intelligent and with an excellent character. I should be very pleased to call him brother."
"He is so rich!! What jewels I will have,' Caroline mused dreamily, "Pemberley is the grandest estate in England and I shall be Mistress of it! We will be the pinnacle of the first circle of society."
"Caroline, that is not very important, he seems to be a very good sort of man. His fortune is great indeed but love and respect are more important. I was hoping you had grown to value these qualities over society and riches. " Carmel had grown impatient with Caroline. It's been her life's work to no avail to give Caroline good values in absence of her mother. She hoped that this nice man would not become attached to Caroline for his own sake if she could not truly love him.
She had no idea how Fitzwilliam Darcy truly regarded her sister.
Posted on Thursday, 21 January 1999
For Darcy the afternoon passed quickly and he genuinely enjoyed the company of the new additions to their party. He was a little surprised that Mrs. Grantly was married to a successful London attorney, Mrs. Marx was married to a very respectable and affluent tradesman, and Mrs. Kinney was married to a gentleman whose estate was about the size of Longbourn or a little larger. The gentlemen could not visit because of business matters so sent their wives and their best wishes to Bingley.
Darcy thought them to be very pleasant and intelligent ladies but was puzzled that they did not marry men of more stature in society. With their fine persons and dowries of $30,000 each, they should not have had any difficulty finding more suitable husbands.
In fact, he thought that Carmel had qualities that reminded him of his mother and had she been unmarried, he may have been very interested in her. Clarise's beauty brought to mind Jane Bennet's golden comeliness. Cynthia was the liveliest of all the Bingley's and Darcy could tell she was opinionated and possessed a dry wit. He liked all three very much indeed.
If only there was such a woman for him to love and admire for her intelligence, spirit, wit, and beauty. That is what is missing and he knew that. But he had not found such a woman. As was evident before him, these fine qualities had been divided up into three agreeable women, so he was obviously asking for too much in seeking them all in one person.
All superior society offered was artificial, obsequious and mercenary fortune hunters. The Caroline Bingleys of London society. They were all the same. Fawning and cooing and begging to pour his drink, etc...
The woman he wanted simply didn't exist.
"A fantasy," Darcy mumbled as he was dressing for the ball.
His spirits were low already because Carmel was extremely fatigued due to her condition, which prompted Cynthia and Carmel to stay behind and care for her. He would miss their pleasant conversation in the midst of strangers from the country.
Nothing could stop Caroline or Louisa from going to the ball, though they spoke of it with abhorrence. Caroline planned to decorate herself on Darcy's arm all night and he was in no humor for it.
"Is it not enough that I must meet Bingley's hobble-de-hoy neighbors?" he grumbled as he descended the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs stood Caroline in the brightest orange gown he had ever seen with all sorts of trappings. Her head was shrouded in one of those wraps he had seen in a book about India and had about five large feather sticking out of it.
"Uh, god's teeth! It's no wonder she's still unmarried. Any man that gets near her must either go blind from the brightness of her fanfare or get poked through the eye by her feathers." Darcy exclaimed inwardly as she cooed his name before he reached the bottom step. It was going to be a long night.
Darcy greeted her and Louisa as cordially as possible. He was greatly relieved for not having to converse with them as Bingley and Hurst announced the carriage was ready.
Once inside the carriage, Caroline prattled on about how appalling she found any country excepting Derbyshire. It was such a pointed comment and hint that Darcy stared at her in annoyance. The more she persisted, the more annoyed he became, but he must remain a gentleman especially to his dear friend and host's sister. His spirits were getting lower the more she talked.
By the time the carriage pulled up at the Meryton Assembly Room, he was wishing he had stayed behind at Netherfield. He was not accustomed to low company and felt the discomfiture keenly.
"What do you say to such people? What could we possibly have in common? I hope that there are no mothers with unmarried daughters at the ready," he thought to himself.
As the party stepped out of the carriage, Caroline stood very close to him and with insincere horror on her face asked if they were safe there. Darcy just looked to the heavens and wondered what intelligent and pleasing conversations were being had at Netherfield with the more agreeable sisters and why he was in such a predicament.
At Netherfield, the sisters were discussing Louisa and Caroline and their poor behavior.
"I am shocked at Louisa and Mr. Hurst," cried Cynthia, "they certainly do not look happy together."
"How can they be when Louisa acts as though she is Caroline's shadow and Hurst eats, drinks and sleeps the day away if he can't go out and shoot something," came Carmel's answer.
"I don't mean to be impertinent but what does that handsome Mr. Darcy see in Caroline? She is so catty and artful, but I guess men can't see past a woman's beauty. She is quite beautiful." pondered Clarise aloud.
"She's not that beautiful, at least not on the inside," began Cynthia.
"I am concerned for him. I sensed no attachment on his side, in fact I believe he ignores her, but he seems to be a reserved man. Perhaps he has difficult showing his feelings. He hardly even speaks with her and looks pained when she speaks to him. I don't know," she shook her head, "but for his sake, I hope he gets to know her better." Carmel added.
"Why do you care so much for him? He is pleasant but I sensed a little pride in his air. Did you see how he stiffened when we spoke of our husbands? For all we know, they may be a suitable match with their superior attitudes," Cynthia reasoned wrinkling her nose in jest.
"Oh no, he's not prideful, just a little uneasy, I think. He has been perfectly agreeable to us and says that our husbands are the most fortunate of men. I believe he is sincere," Clarise defended firmly.
"If he does not know Caroline's true character, the outcome may be grievous indeed if he does propose as she advises me that he will shortly. It would pain me to see him used thus, such a nice young fellow. I wonder that he could not find a woman who could truly love him and not his fortune," Carmel sincerely liked him. The great care Darcy takes with Bingley endeared him to her before she ever laid eyes on him. Seeing his fine manners and affection for her brother only nourished her sentiment.
"That would be a rare gem of a woman or man. These days everyone considers money as part of his or her mate's attractiveness. It is more important than a pleasing figure or a handsome profile. I wonder about all of the Hertfordshire beauties we hear so much of. Perhaps Caroline will have some competition," Cynthia grinned wickedly and only half serious.
The sisters spent the evening pleasantly and retired early.
Darcy on the other hand, was wishing the Meryton assembly would end sometime this century!
Posted on Monday, 25 January 1999
Breakfast was pleasant for all but Darcy the following morning. He was not ill humored, but contemplative. Never before had he encountered such unrefined and course society.
The Bennet family only had one true beauty and the rest were barely beyond plain. The eldest also had a calm and well-mannered demeanor. Well, the second eldest seemed rather outstanding too, but in a different way. She was not really what you could call beautiful or serene but she was very pretty and had a certain something in her air. She seemed amused by Darcy and that he found hard to tolerate.
"Why should she be amused? What had she seen in me to ridicule? I am sure she shared it with Miss Lucas for they both stared and laughed a me. Did she overhear me? She could not have. What I said would not produce such a reaction. No, she could not have heard. Then what is it that is so entertaining about me?!" Darcy tried to rationalize Miss Elizabeth's mirth with no success until he heard the young lady in question's name being abused.
"Her manners are so unrefined! She a reputed beauty? Ha! Mr. Darcy was even more severe upon her and he never criticizes anyone. But he was very funny about it. But Jane is sweet. I just dispatched an invitation to dinner tonight to her. She's a dear creature." With that said, Caroline sipped her tea and stared admiringly at Mr. Darcy.
"Ugh," he though to himself.
Hearing the name of Jane Bennet had an immediate effect on Bingley, "Tonight? Oh, what poor timing. Darcy, Hurst and I are to dine with the officers. How unlucky. Caroline, I wish you to make a good impression on our fair neighbor."
"I could do nothing but," smiled Caroline at Darcy as he looked away.
Carmel noticed that the gentleman never looks at Caroline. Never. He looks in her general direction when she is speaking but never making eye contact. How unlike a man violently in love to never gaze dreamily at its object." She thought.
The day passed quietly enough. Carmel and Cynthia clearly saw that Caroline had not changed a bit since their younger days. In fact she's mastered her art of annulling everyone she met and only found value in herself and material wealth. They were extremely vexed. "No wonder she's still unmarried," they thought simultaneously as she prattled on about superior society.
Carmel knew she would have to try and talk to Caroline but was also aware of the results.
After tea, a drenched Jane Bennet arrived. Through Dinner Clarise became alarmed at the frequency of Jane's sneezes but Jane tried to assure everyone present that it was a slight cold. It turned out she was quite ill and had to stay the night. She definitely made a good impression. Carmel, Cynthia and Clarise admired her poise and beauty and especially without it being marred by hauteur.
As Caroline said, Jane was a beautiful and sweet girl. All of the Bingley sisters finally had something to agree upon... Almost.
While Caroline and Louisa agreed that she was a dear sweet girl despite her unfortunate connections; Carmel, Cynthia, and Clarise praised her as the only person suitable for their dear Charles. They were perfectly suited.
"Dear Charles will be so upset that she is ill. He seems to like her very much,' Clarise noted happily.
"Nonsense,' seethed Caroline, "she has no fortune or connections. Charles can only see her as a pleasant diversion but will not allow himself to have any serious designs on her. For God's sake, most of her family is in trade. She's not from the proper circle and that is all there is too it!"
Carmel was not shocked but no less disappointed by Caroline's behavior., "Remember your roots, dear."
Cynthia began to feel very reactive to the venom on Caroline's tongue. "I am sure that Charles will marry for love as Carmel, Clarise and myself have. It is evident that marriages of convenience or fortune are seldom successful. Why, I see many couples who marry more for money than for true affection, and what is their outcome? If you can't respect or love your partner, what do you do?... Clarabel, what is wrong?!"
Louisa spun around with tears in her eyes, "You are never to call me that!" she spat and ran from the room.
Cynthia broke into tears, shocked at her sister's reaction. Carmel pulled her into an embrace and stroked her hair, "Shhhhh... she will understand, it will be all right, you did not mean it that way."
Caroline attacked, "How dare you!, She's your elder sister and you had no right to parade her sad marriage about! The fact that she and Hurst can barely tolerate each others presence and he won't lay a finger on her..."
Clarise gathered her strength and defended, "Let's hear no more of Clarabel's sad situation. It does none of us any good. Besides, Cynthia was only telling the truth, it was not meant to hurt her."
Just then, the gentlemen returned home from their dinner and noticed the commotion.
When Caroline relayed her slanted version of what transpired, the gentlemen came away with three different concerns. Hurst desired some of Bingley's fine port (he felt he needed it in order to deal with a distraught Louisa), Bingley was concerned for Miss Bennet and his sister, and Darcy wondered how much Caroline contributed to the entire fiasco.
"Who is Clarabel?' Darcy asked innocently.
All eyes turned to him; he knew he unearthed a secret or even possibly a scandal in the Bingley family.
Suddenly everyone yawned and desired to retire leaving Bingley to explain to Darcy who Clarabel was.
The following morning Darcy took a walk on the Netherfield grounds as he struggled to digest the information Bingley gave him the previous evening.
As he rounded a tree he looked up and directly into the eyes of Miss Bennet's sister, Elizabeth...
"Miss Bennet," he started at her abrupt appearance.
"Mr. Darcy," she curtsied, "I have come to inquire after my sister." she stated with dullness.
As their brief exchange was taking place, there were three pairs of very interested eyes peering at them from the breakfast room at Netherfield.
"What a pretty young lady, a bit disheveled but not a jot less than very pretty," Carmel whispered to Cynthia and Clarise and both of the former nodded.
"I wonder who she is and why she is here," Cynthia whispered.
"They are walking this way together, so I guess we will shortly find out. She is certainly in a hurry for she has outstripped Mr. Darcy." Carmel summated.
Elizabeth walked in and greeted Bingley, the Hursts and Caroline and was introduced to the other sisters. She then excused herself and went directly up to Jane's room to comfort her. As soon as her footsteps ceased to be heard, the conversation ensued left the three sisters in no doubt of the ladies worth for she was being abused to an extreme by the silly sisters.
After Caroline and Louisa (Clarabel) commented venomously about her appearance, country manners, and relatives in Cheapside, Caroline made a comment marked for Mr. Darcy and his response sent her recoiling.
Carmel certainly noticed this and became highly suspicious. "Why would a man so violently in love with a woman (as Caroline says he is enamored with her) make such a comment about admiring another's fine eyes? That comment was clearly a device to deter Caroline from seeking his favor. What is really going on here?"
"She seems delightful!" ventured Clarise, "and she is indeed very pretty. I should like to know more of her."
"I find it amazing that one family can produce two such beauties, one golden and serene, and the other dark and radiant. They are equal in beauty and goodness though in opposite ways, I find that very interesting and would like to know them better myself." Cynthia said as she sipped her tea.
Carmel, Cynthia, and Clarise noticed the effect this conversation was having on Mr. Darcy, for he kept strict watch out of the window and his posture became stiff and erect.
When Darcy finally spoke, he mentioned the inferiority of the Bennet's connections and fortunes and this only confirmed Cynthia's notion that he was a bit proud.
Elizabeth then entered the room and the sisters were glad she would be staying for they were all fascinated by her open manners and warmth marked with intelligence.
Mr. Darcy did not seem pleased and the three sisters were very disappointed with him.
"It seems, he may be a good match for Caroline after all," murmured Cynthia when they were alone.
"Now, let's not judge our new friend so harshly. I do not give credit to all of Caroline's assertions about him," Carmel soothed. "Besides, Miss Elizabeth seems to hold her own against him, I see." With that she winked and all of the sisters changed for tea and anticipated more time in Miss Elizabeth's company. Their admiration was equal in strength to Caroline's dislike and envy of the lady.
As the day passed everyone pondered his or her different views of Miss Elizabeth: Bingley thought her everything lovely and affectionate because of her great care for her sister. He would love to have such a sister in law. Mr. Hurst as usual held no opinion of anything; Mrs. Hurst was concerned that she would be a hindrance to Caroline's chances with Mr. Darcy. She too noticed his defense of her fine eyes and felt his admiration was obvious. Caroline seethed to think that this country nobody would be privileged to stay under the same roof as her illustrious family and Mr. Darcy. The other three Bingley sisters were pleasantly inquisitive and Mr. Darcy was disquieted at the thought of spending time with her. She had a propensity to make him uneasy and unsure of himself in her company. She gave him butterflies in his stomach and made his palms sweaty. She stirred something within him and this he could not understand.
The gentlemen went shooting and the ladies withdrew to their rooms to rest.
Later that evening, Elizabeth joined the party in the drawing room and Carmel, Cynthia and Clarise had an opportunity to observe her as most of their party played cards. Caroline would throw out some pointed comment and Elizabeth would deflect it with artistry. Mr. Darcy seemed to want to compliment Miss Elizabeth but the lady did not recognize his efforts. She didn't seem to care about his opinion of her or the preference he showed for her thoughts and opinions.
"As a married woman I sense an attraction on his side. But she is quite amusing for she doesn't see his attempts nor does she give any indication that she desires them. What a gem she is! She cares not for his exalted position while he denies that she is an excellent creature due only to his distaste for her low connections. He seems to notice her and stares at her often. He seems well on his way to being violently in love with her. But she seems indifferent to him completely." Carmel whispered over her glass of wine to Cynthia.
"I am glad for her that she shows him no interest! He doesn't deserve such a woman. The way I see it he and Caroline will be very happy together." Cynthia contended.
Clarise overheard her sisters and exclaimed, "Oh, Lord! If what you say is true and her prefers Miss Elizabeth, what about our dear Caroline!"
Carmel thought this over, "I believe that our dear Caroline has supposed something more than what really exists as far as that gentleman is concerned. I have been observing him and he gives no proof of being in love. At least not with Caroline."
Cynthia smiled a wicked grin, "I hope he may prove himself worthy of Miss Elizabeth, she may bring to his life the liveliness he so desperately wants. I only hope she will have him. She seems more amused by him than anything."
Carmel ventured, "Perhaps...hmm... If we can confirm that my suspicions about his involvement with Caroline are correct, perhaps we may give our young suitor a hand." The three agreed that this was the plan.
Just then, Miss Elizabeth excused herself to go check on her sister before she retired. All eyes were upon her as she exited the drawing room. Four pairs of these eyes held a smile of admiration.
"Oh, yes, that is a wonderful plan." Cooed Clarise.
Posted on Friday, 29 January 1999
The next morning Darcy was taking his early morning walk and was joined by Caroline and Carmel, each held one of his arms as they entered the lane. They were engaged in lively conversation until Carmel took the opportunity to find out if Darcy and Caroline were really an article. After diverting Caroline from expounding on the vulgarities of the Bennets and what in-laws they will make, Carmel saw an opportunity.
"You two are quite an oddity," Carmel began innocently. "Caroline especially. How can you talk so of Miss Elizabeth's fine eyes and reference her family as Mr. Darcy's in-laws. We both know perfectly well that shortly I will be calling Mr. Darcy brother." As she said brother, she raised an innocent and expectant eyebrow.
She smiled at Mr. Darcy and saw the surprise on his face and then wondered how far out of the boundaries of good taste her comments were. Still, for his own sake, he must make his affections clear. He stood silent but Caroline's eyes widened as she stared at him as if she expected a proposal on the spot.
"Oh!" thought Carmel, "she thinks I am trying to help her suit. Well, at least she won't consider my actions to be disloyal to her."
"Mrs. Grantly," Darcy started cautiously, "I would find it very disagreeable indeed if I had not been sufficiently guarded in my behavior, but I have often thought of Bingley as a brother and have come to admire his sisters as if they were sisters of my own. I hope that this is the only regard in which you were hoping to call me brother." He smiled kindly feeling a bit awkward at the disappointment he must be causing.
"I see...well, you are absolutely correct. I have only one brother and as he seems to consider you to be family I have adopted the thought as well." Carmel smoothed as she tried to disguise her mirth.
Caroline joined in the cover-up as well, "Of course Mr. Darcy, what else would you think we meant." Caroline blanched as she said those words.
Rounding the large tree, Carmel spotted Louisa, Cynthia, Clarise, and Miss Elizabeth. Usually, Caroline would have held on even tighter to Darcy so she could monopolize his time, but she was trying to hide her disappointment and claimed Louisa with a feeble excuse and returned to the house post haste.
Seeing that there were four ladies and only enough room for three in the lane, the other Bingleys placed Miss Elizabeth in Mr. Darcy's care as they went to visit dear Jane.
"Mr. Darcy, would you please see to it that this excellent young lady continues her walk safely," Carmel requested sweetly.
"Certainly...Miss Bennet," he extended an arm which she accepted hesitantly. The three sisters gave each other knowing looks and promised Elizabeth that they would see to Jane's every need.
"Well, Miss Bennet, I understand you are a great walker," Darcy attempted levity.
Elizabeth was not sure how to take this so she ignored it changing the subject completely. She was unnerved by his piercing gaze, but figured he was looking for flaws.
"It has been a great pleasure to meet the rest of Mr. Bingley's family. They are quite amiable and pleasant. They have made me feel welcomed during my stay here."
"Yes, they are very like Bingley. Eager to approve of everyone they meet." Oops, that did not come out right!
"I see, Mr. Darcy. I will release you from this walk," she huffed trying to control the angry blush spreading over her face. With that she ran towards the house cursing that arrogant man.
Darcy called after her, "Miss Bennet! I did not mean that in a bad way. I was just mentioning their amiable qualities. That was not intended as a slight directed at you."
Elizabeth halted wiping the tears from her eyes. "Thank you for explaining. I thought..." she tried to hold back her emotions.
"Miss Bennet, pray forgive me. My behavior towards you since we met has been less than gallant, and I sincerely apologize. I can clearly understand why you were upset at my remark. I seem to have a talent for saying the wrong things to you. I cannot imagine why, but that is the way it is. Can we not be friends?" his expression was so earnest.
"Yes, Mr. Darcy. I would really like to be friends." She took his offered arm tentatively as she thought of how he seems to be different every time she encountered him. "At least this time he was agreeable," she smiled. "I guess I shall have to get to know you better so we will not continue to have these misunderstandings," she attempted a smile.
"Please do!" he laughed. "I am envious of your easy manners, Miss Bennet. I never know what to say to people I am not intimately acquainted with and I seem to offend when I am actually trying to recommend myself. Do you think you can help me with this?" He asked with a shyness she never noticed before.
"Of course, my friend," Elizabeth responded, eyes flashing brightly at him. He was caught by surprise at the effect they had on him.
They walked for three-quarters of an hour and had a very agreeable time. The rest of the party in the house was astonished when they finally returned smiling.
"Louisa!" Caroline said behind the door of the drawing room, "how can this be? It is too much to be borne! First he practically flat-out refuses to propose to me and then spends the entire morning with that country Miss! I need him Louisa, what am I to do?" Caroline was frantic.
"Now Caroline," soothed Louisa, "calm down and we will think of a plan that will both rid us of the Bennets and make Darcy see that you are the only match for him."
Caroline continued, "And Carmel almost revealed everything I wrote to her about him. He practically knows that I have been leading people to believe that he is in love with me!"
"Shhh, we will take care of everything and you will be Mrs. Darcy and all of this will soon be forgotten."
In the upper chambers, the other three sisters were congratulating themselves on a job well done. Carmel related to the other two how easy it was to extract from the man that he had no designs on Caroline excepting being a friend of her brother's. Then they praised each other for the ingenious way they left him alone with Miss Elizabeth. All was going as planned and they were very happy for their friend. Cynthia only had a doubt of his success.
"Let's hope his pride does not rear its ugly head and offend her," Cynthia implored aloud.
Later that day, Darcy was bathing and trying to tell himself he was not becoming attracted to Elizabeth. As he stepped into his robe he peered out of the window and there she was. Romping and reveling with one of Bingley's pointers. She was having a jolly good time and her eyes were illuminated. She was breath taking! He could not draw breath for her beauty made his chest swell. After some time, he became aware of the impropriety of staring at her from the bathroom window clad only in his robe.
Darcy tried to shake off thoughts of her playing with the dog, for each time he thought of her physiognomy it triggered an involuntary response. He knew what he was thinking was wrong, but he was so attracted to her, especially when she was teasing him about something. He decided to enjoy this friendship with this charming young lady and not allow thoughts of anything further to cross his mind.
Elizabeth was quite relieved that she had been wrong about Darcy and he was not such a prideful monster, as he seemed before. He was simply shy and a little introverted, but that could be helped in time. After he relaxed, he proved to be very informed and witty with quite a keen sense of humor. How they laughed together.
"This will be a great friendship," she mused. Suddenly the thought of his rare and dimpled smile warmed her. His image returned to her and she had to admit that he was extremely handsome. Unexpectedly she began to entertain thoughts of his potentially being someone that she could truly care for.
As she continued thinking about him in this fashion, she began walking towards the library to find an interesting read, but what she heard on the opposite side of the door stunned her into silence.
Caroline and Carmel were having a heated discussion and what she heard may have shattered the good opinion of the gentleman she was just think of so fondly.
"Caroline, hold your tongue!" shouted Carmel.
"Well, he has used me so very ill. He made me love him and I thought he loved me too," Caroline wailed, "now thanks to you and your impertinent questions, he won't have me. You have scared him away and he will marry his cousin Anne deBourgh! His aunt tried to chase me off by revealing this secret engagement and now she has gained her victory!"
"No, Caroline, I want a confession, you cannot continue to sully the gentleman's name, please dearest, I am worried for you. This is not healthy. Please find someone else. I am convinced that he never meant to lead you on. Please Caroline don't do this to yourself." Pleaded Carmel.
"You don't know this man's sense of pride. He must marry from the best circle and now you've given him every reason to think us abominable. You have disqualified me from being an eligible match," shouted Caroline. "He has every right to be proud, noble blood, Pemberley, $10,000 per year! All lost because of you."
"No Caroline! I will not have this. You have lied about this gentleman. He clearly holds no affection for you; his heart has become engaged elsewhere. If you do care about him let him be happy..." Carmel was impassioned.
Caroline was beyond reason but she was only performing so Carmel would not attempt to extract any more information from Mr. Darcy. She was quite embarrassed from the morning's discoveries.
"You refer to that country girl. The dirty one? You heard him yourself speak of her low connections and lack of fortune. Not to mention he acknowledged he would be mortified if his sister was to make such a conceited and indecorous display. No, he will not have her. He despises the Bennets. When he was asked whether she was a beauty, he abused her looks with loathing. Deny it, you were there! The night after the Meryton Assembly! His pride will never allow him to condescend to accept her and her vulgar relations. Let him be happy. With her? Never! Even if he did prefer her, what about my happiness? "
At this Elizabeth was so stricken she ran back to her sitting room in tears cursing herself for being taken in by Mr. Darcy. She never really liked Caroline, but now she really despised her. "Why should I care for the good opinion of these snobs? As soon as Jane is able, we will depart from here and I need not ever associate with them again. No, not all of them are unpleasant. Mrs. Grantly, Mrs. Marx, Mrs. Kinney, Mr. Bingley; they are all wonderfully kind and friendly. I cannot hate them. Really Caroline is not really worth my anger. But, Oh! Mr. Darcy, what a fool I could have made of myself. To think I could have cared for such a treacherous liar!"
Had she stayed a moment longer, she would have heard Carmel's explanation of the change of his sentiments upon meeting someone that he would not need to condescend to but love as an equal. She extolled the virtues of Miss Elizabeth and of Mr. Darcy's good sense for recognizing these wonderful qualities. And Caroline was told that she was not such a woman.
"Stay out of my way as I attempt to repair the damage your big mouth has caused." With that, Caroline swept out of the room.
That night dinner was very awkward. Bingley was chattering away and no one else uttered a word. Darcy looked down the table to meet the eyes of his new friend and noticed how fatigued and distraught she seemed when she turned away and averted her eyes. He became concerned and decided to find out her troubles after dinner.
Caroline wasted no time in having Darcy's plate and wineglass refilled throughout the evening, she planned to show him what an attentive hostess she could be. Darcy's mind was far too preoccupied with Elizabeth's mood and ignored the overflowing food and drink and openly displayed annoyance at Caroline's batting her eyes at him.
"Why must she persist? I thought I made my intentions perfectly clear this morning. All I want to do is talk to Elizabeth, (did I just use her Christian name?) Er, Miss Bennet, whose attention I cannot seem to gain, but I seem to be fated to have Miss Bingley hover over me."
The Hursts were eating as if there were no tomorrow and the other Bingleys were glancing at Elizabeth to see if she was unwell.
Elizabeth excused herself and rose from the dinner table, but fatigue made her legs a bit wobbly. As she looked as if she would collapse, Mr. Darcy jumped up and caught her.
"Miss Bennet, may I see you to your rooms? You seem quite unwell," he said as he tried to look into her eyes.
"That will not be necessary, I.."
"I am afraid I must insist Miss Bennet." He said firmly.
He proffered an arm and she accepted it. Caroline looked on in horror as Darcy and Elizabeth slowly made their way out of the dining room.
Once they were out of hearing range, Darcy began, "Miss Bennet as your friend, please tell me, are you unwell?"
She looked up at him with fire in her eyes, "Mr. Darcy, could you really go on referring to us as friends? I had heard quite the opposite. Please enlighten me on how you really feel. Tell me about my relations and my lack of fortune. Tell me how my unattractive I am to you. Or tell me of your engagement to your cousin or even how you have played with Miss Bingley's affections. Pray, do so, so I may be rid of you forever."
Anger and hurt flashed across Darcy's features, "Miss Bennet, where did you get such misinformation?" He held her arm tightly for she was not to get away before she explained.
"I cannot divulge this. I overheard all of this information this afternoon. How can you deny any of it?" Elizabeth no longer wished to cry. Her head had that impertinent lilt and she met his gaze with blazing eyes.
"Miss Bennet," he softened, "I must confess that the night I met you, I was extremely ill-humored and made some remarks that I regret. I was not sincere in making them. I have also on another occasion mentioned your inferior connections. I do not believe that you should hold against me the honest reactions to my first impression of you and your relations. While I have nothing but the utmost respect and regard for you and Miss Jane, I have found the rest of your family lacking. I cannot deny making these remarks. But they do not change the way I view you. At first I was reluctant to admit it, but you are by far the most enchanting and lovely lady of my acquaintance and I value your friendship despite your unfortunate relations." He came up for air.
"As far as engagements and other attachments, there have never been any. My aunt would like me to marry my cousin but I flatly refused. As far as Miss Bingley is concerned, I have never and will never pay my addresses to her. She is, I presume, the one you overheard today. I am sorry that this has distressed you but I am glad that I had an opportunity to bear all of these transgressions before you and beg your forgiveness." He was not aware that he had actually been holding one her hands in one of his.
"I forgive you, but I noticed that you spoke more about my family's inferiority than that of wanting to be friends. I believe that you have some pride issues to work out and I cannot be the friend of someone who holds everyone I hold dear in contempt. Thank you for seeing me to my rooms." She said as she slid her hand out of his grasp. "Good night sir."
Darcy stood speechless as she closed the door in his face. He stood for a few moments at the door and eventually heard her soft sobs. "He was the first man I ever believed I could care for. Well, it's better that I know how he really feels sooner rather than later."
Upon hearing these words, Darcy's heart began to hurt.
Suddenly a rage came up in his breast and he could have strangled Caroline. She was the cause of Miss Bennet's pain and now his, he was certain of it. He had to escape this house as soon as possible.
Darcy strode into the drawing room where the rest of the party gathered after dinner. He began, "Bingley, I must leave at first light in the morning. I apologize for not being able to stay, but an impossible situation has arisen and I must go to London."
Bingley's disappointment was keen, "Well Darcy, I suppose I cannot stop you, but you will be missed. I wish that you could wait for a fortnight more and I can go to London with you."
"I am sorry Bingley, but I cannot leave Hertfordshire soon enough. Good night, everyone." As he bowed, he heard Caroline coo, "Mr. Darcy, we will be quite desolate without you. I hop that you will change your mind and stay for another fortnight. You would not wish to disappoint you dear hostess, would you" she smiled so very insincerely and her features were strained into an unappealing scowl.
"Madam, my dear hostess is the reason I am leaving," he said sharply and exited the room leaving everyone astonished.
Carmel, Cynthia and Clarise had an idea of what must have occasioned such a performance from the usually restrained Darcy and they knew they had to help before the man left the house.
Cynthia threw decorum to the wind and ran after Mr. Darcy and asked if they could take a walk in the morning before he left. Realizing that he owed the entire Bingley family the greatest civility, he acquiesced.
In Clarise's bedchamber, the sisters plotted out phase two of their plan.
Darcy could not sleep a wink that night. He thought of Elizabeth and how hurt she seems. It tore at his heart to see her so. He began to wonder why he should care so much for her and when this feeling first began. He could not place the moment it happened or even how, but by dawn Darcy was positive that he was deeply in love with Elizabeth. He tried to find reasons not to be but it was indisputable. He was in love with Elizabeth. She captivated his heart despite all of his objections.
Elizabeth was much more confused. She could not imagine the Darcy she admires and loves speaking so abusively of her and marrying his cousin against his will. She knew very early on that she could love him, but now it seems that she has loved him for a while. She wondered why it crept upon her rather than striking her like a lightening bolt as she imagined it would. She loved almost everything about him. Excepting his pride. "His pride cannot be that bad, he did pursue me to explain and I saw no trace of hauteur in him. Even as he explained his feelings about my family he seemed sincere. But what could have changed his opinions so drastically? Could he really care for me as I do him?" These thought made Elizabeth even more confused and miserable. Had her fit of temper changed his mind? What was he thinking and feeling toward her was all she could think of.
She hurried to Jane's room to see if Jane felt well enough to go home early the next morning. She could not face him after the way she treated him last night.
Seeing the distress on her sister' s face, Jane agreed that she would fare better at home. She really wanted to stay because of the pleasure of Mr. Bingley's visits but her dear Lizzy was obviously having a hard time with Caroline and Mrs. Hurst.
"Mr. Darcy, I am glad that we could have this little talk. It seems that there have been several misunderstandings surrounding your visit. Our family was under the impression that you were to marry Caroline," Cynthia said apologetically.
Darcy tried not to wince at those words being said aloud but could not help it. He did not know how to reply without offending so he stood silent for a long moment. Cynthia sensing his dilemma rescued him with "don't worry, we've all gotten over that misapprehension." She saw his face relax as he walked slowly enough for her to keep his pace. She continued, "Tell me please Mr. Darcy, are you sure that you want to marry your cousin Anne?" Seeing the shock on his face, she back-peddled, "Please do not think me impertinent sir, but my sisters and I have come to look upon you as a friend and have only your happiness in mind."
Recovering quickly, Darcy said in a measured tone to hide his annoyance, "I am not marrying my cousin Anne, or anyone for that matter. Let us discuss something else please."
Cynthia saw her chance to drive home her point. "Miss Elizabeth is such a charming and intelligent young lady, is she not? What a fortunate man that capture such a jewel. I think she's a great lady."
Darcy's heart leapt at the mention of her name and he blushed. "Yes, she is, a remarkable young woman. Such wit and intelligence and a joy for life in such a petite and lovely package. Yes, I think very highly of Miss Benn..." he trailed off as he saw his discourse's subject and Miss Jane running with servants carrying their trunks to Bingley's carriage.
He took off after them. Cynthia realized that her plan was being detoured by the lady herself and turned towards the house to see two noses stuck against the upstairs windows. She gave the signal to abort their operation, as she believed nature was about to run its course. She walked back to the house with her fingers crossed for the young unacknowledged lovers.
Darcy practically ran into the two women over he was approaching them so fast. "Ahem, Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, you cannot be leaving."
Elizabeth replied with her eyes cast to the ground, "Yes sir, I believe that we must." Jane began coughing and Darcy saw that she seemed a bit wobbly. He called out to one of the servants to see Miss Bennet back into the house for she seemed ill. Elizabeth made no protest and began to feel guilt for her selfish actions and how she had not given real consideration to Jane's health.
Once Jane had been seen to, Elizabeth and Darcy stood in uncomfortable silence. He offered her his arm and asked her to walk the part this fine morning for they had much to discuss. She acquiesced but would not meet his eyes.
"Miss Bennet, I think we should discuss the reasons both of us are trying to run away from this house. I know you must think the worst of me for last night's events and I do not blame you. I find myself in quite a predicament. Perhaps you can help me make up my mind to what course would be best to take." Elizabeth only nodded. He was disheartened by her silence but decided this must be done. He would not leave this place with regrets.
"Miss Elizabeth, I have long admired you for your wit and intelligence and reluctantly for your great beauty. I say reluctantly because I only wanted to consider you to be a friend. To that end I tried to find fault with your family and connections, which was very weak on my part. I tried to use our respective stations in life as a barrier to any serious designs I may have had on you. All of this was to no avail. You enchant me. To describe my feelings as ardent love would be a gross understatement, I know this declaration is sudden, but I just realized that you are the only woman whom I could ever spend my life with. Would you please forgive my pride and agree to be my wife. I will endeavor to deserve you." This was all said very quickly yet it's effect on Elizabeth was as if it had been read like a poem.
Her silence troubled him further. He looked down at her face to ascertain what emotions she was experiencing when he saw her heightened color and that she was choking back tears. He was not sure I this was a positive reaction.
After a great pause, she placed her hand on his arm and turned to him and said, "Yes, I will marry you. I am for once speechless. How this came about, I know not, but the end result is more than I could have hoped for. Yes, I will marry you." She could say no more, for she was overwhelmed.
Their walk extended as far as Longbourne and the astonishment of his application for her hands was to say the least great. Mrs. Bennet was off her head with joy and the other Bennet sisters were envious. Mr. Bennet with a bitter happiness agreed to the marriage of his favorite daughter and Mr. Darcy and they were proclaimed to be the happiest couple in the entire world. The couple took Mr. Bennet's carriage back to Netherfield and shared the news there. Bingley and Jane gave each other a knowing look and Caroline and Luisa turned purple with rage and the other Bingleys nodded and smiled to each other. They all agreed that it was a job well done.
Later that day, Elizabeth and Jane had indeed gone back to Longbourne and Darcy stayed on at Netherfield another night before journeying to London to prepare for the wedding.
Carmel, Cynthis, and Clarise walked him to his carriage the next morning to say their goodbyes. After saying very warm fare wells, Darcy turned back and asked them "How did you know?"
Carmel spoke for all of them, "True love is precious and hard to find, but when you find it, it illuminates everything. Sometimes you just need to listen to your heart."