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The Way It Ought to Be, Chapter 10

October 21, 2016 02:25PM
Hello, everybody! Thanks so much for reading. I've been really enjoying the comments and speculations. Everything will be made clear pretty soon. In the mean time, here's some more confusion.

Thank you, Debra, Liz and Agnes. You guys are great!





Chapter 10: A Little Overcome by the Heat



It was ironic, she later thought, that only in learning to hate him again did she realise how far she had come to like him—to love him. The love he had professed for her had grown exceedingly pleasant, his attraction increasing his attractiveness, and his behaviour ever since she came to town had caused him to rise in her esteem every week. If he had been what he seemed to be, before she found out the Truth, she would have loved him, she believed that now. Perhaps she had loved him already.

But all that was shattered. Mr. Darcy was not what he seemed, and even if he was not promised to another, she could never love the man he truly was. His own affection for herself must have been pretended—and even if it was not, it was unacceptable, immoral, and offered against every proper feeling. She wished only to be rid of him, to be away from London—but how could she leave in the middle of the season? What reason could she offer that would not rouse suspicion and wound her sister's feelings? She had all but promised to spend the summer with Jane too.

For another fortnight this terrible state of things continued. Mr. Darcy tried again, once or twice, to approach her. She could barely bring herself to look at him, much less speak to him civilly. When she did, she could not keep the scorn from her gaze or the contempt from her voice. Cold was the best she could manage. He did not stay long under such treatment. After the second such rebuff he did not approach her again, except for the minimum of polite greetings, which she returned in kind. It seemed to Elizabeth that he spent more time than ever in Miss Cornish’s company. She wondered if she ought to attempt to warn that lady, but quickly dismissed the thought. She did not know her well enough to approach her on such a subject, and it was unlikely she would be believed. Would Miss Cornish even care? Mr. Darcy was rich, after all, and handsome.

Jane and Bingley, she soon realised, believed that something had happened between her and their friend. In all likelihood they thought he had proposed again, and been refused, or that he had imposed himself somehow. She offered no explanations, and they would not ask, but she was aware of them watching her worriedly, and once when she walked past Bingley’s study downstairs, she caught a glimpse of Mr. Darcy and heard raised voices. The situation could not continue.

Immediately upon forming her resolution she went to Jane’s dressing room. “Jane, I think it is time that I went home.”

“So soon?” Jane looked up from the accounts she had been reviewing. “The season is not even over yet.”

“I know, but—but I find I miss Hertfordshire, and my father has written to ask me when I return. I cannot leave him without sensible conversation for any longer.”

Jane was not fooled, of course. She knew precisely why Elizabeth could no longer bear to remain in London, but that did not stop her from looking distressed. “I fear this season has brought you more pain than pleasure,” she said.

“Of course it has not!” Elizabeth went to embrace her. “You have been the best hostess and sister and friend in the world, and Charles the brother I have always wished for. And as for pleasure, I am amazed you could say such a thing! How many times have I danced through a pair of slippers in a single night? How often have we been out until two, three o’clock in the morning, attending a ball upon a concert upon a dinner? The ancient Romans were nothing to us; we have been positively decadent.”

“That is not what I mean, Lizzy.”

“But it is what I mean. You have given me a delightful season, and I will never forget it—but I am, after all, a country girl, and I long to be in the country again now.”

“If you truly wish to go I will not keep you, but are you certain that this is the best solution to your difficulty?”

“It is the only solution to my difficulty.”

“Yes, but—” Jane paused unhappily. “If you only you and Mr. Darcy could—”

“Do not, please!”

“He loves you, Lizzy, I know that he does. Whatever has happened, you will quickly make up again.”

“Jane, if you love me, do not speak to me about this any more. It can never be, Mr. Darcy and I can never be. If you knew everything you would know—” She broke off, and pressed her fingers to her eyes, trying not to cry. “Please, we must not speak of this any longer. My mind is made up.”

Seeing her real distress, Jane did not argue further, but she did urge her to remain until the end of the week. It would take that long to send word home to expect her, and there was one more ball to be enjoyed on Thursday. Elizabeth had ordered a new gown for it, and all the dearest friends she had made in London would be there.

When Bingley learned of her plans, he offered to accompany her back to Hertfordshire, and then Jane decided that if her husband was to go she would too, and it was all settled for them to have a weekend’s visit before returning.

~*~


Between last-minute shopping and making farewell calls, the evening of the last ball came all too soon. Elizabeth was far more anxious than the occasion warranted. Darcy would be there, but he would surely avoid her. She was far more likely to be treated to the spectacle of him dancing with Miss Cornish; perhaps that was what she dreaded. Her new gown suited her very well, and Jane’s lady’s maid was by now expert with her hair. She would go looking her best, at least—but truly, she wished she did not have to go. She was tired of London crowds, of fashion and folly and their endless parading. She wanted to go home.

Still, Elizabeth was not made for unhappiness. By half way through the evening she was laughing, until a turn in the dance brought her quite literally face to face with Mr. Darcy. She was dancing with the very young but dashing Captain Wattle. Mr. Darcy was dancing with Miss Bingley, and seemed as startled as Elizabeth. They clasped hands automatically, circled each other, moved on. He was handsome. He was so very handsome and so very fallen in her eyes that she could neither look at him nor stop looking at him. Three more times they had to pass each other this way, and then it was over.

Scarcely had Captain Wattle led her off the floor than Darcy approached through the crowd. He looked for all the world like the Mr. Darcy of that first assembly, haughty and cold—but also, she thought, angry.

She too was angry when he bowed and asked her to dance. No gentleman, she thought, would put her in such a position: he had to know it was impossible for her to refuse in front of Captain Wattle without inciting the sort of remark she wished to avoid. She really felt she had no choice but to accept him and let him lead her back to the floor. Too late she realised the dance was a waltz. Darcy had never asked her for a waltz before, and she rarely danced them. Nothing could be worse, she thought, than to be in such intimate proximity to him. She had not even the confidence of knowing the steps well! But as the music started she allowed him to take her in his arms.

Even her hope of a dignified silence was destroyed. Only a minute into the dance, Darcy looked down on her and said, “You appear uncharacteristically silent, Miss Bennet. If you have nothing civil to say to me, you might at least attempt an insult.”

It had been so long since he had spoken to her with anything other than perfect politeness that his caustic tone came as a bit of a shock. Then there was his arm around her waist, his hand holding hers, making it difficult to think clearly.

“On no account let concern for my feelings stop you. You will make it a clever one, I am sure. ”

Furious, she stared defiantly at his cravat.

“Well? Have you nothing to say?”

“No.”

“Then that is very strange, for I had always thought you a woman of uncommon eloquence—until these last weeks, that is, which have taught me that your silence is even sharper than your tongue.”

A hot flush burned up her neck, made worse by the heat of the room, and the heat of his hands. Around them, other couples were laughing, moving, brushing past. “I do not know what you mean.”

His fingers on hers tightened. “I wish you would pay me the compliment of not dissembling. If you have determined not to give me an explanation for your behaviour then just say so.”

She refused to reply at first, as they moved around the room. At last she said resentfully, “You have no right to speak to me in that tone.”

“Nor any right to speak to you at all, if your manner is any indication!”

“I wonder you asked me to dance, then.” She glanced up at him and saw his lips close tight with frustration.

“You are leaving,” he said after a moment.

“I am going home.”

“Might I be permitted to know why?”

“Do I need a reason to return to the place of my birth?”

“When your departure comes so abruptly in the middle of the season, I think you do.” It seemed to her that they were locked together, separate and yet near, moving endlessly while the music played on and on.

“I miss my family.”

“Your family is here.”

“Jane is here, but the rest are at Longbourn.”

“It is not Longbourn.” He dismissed the notion contemptuously. “You cannot have such an attachment to Longbourn. You cannot miss your relations there so badly that you must cut short your promised visit to the one sister you actually love, and abandon your friends without notice.”

She was so angry and astonished that she missed her step and stumbled. His hand was strong against her back, steadying her, turning her. It was insufferably hot in this room, and his proximity suffocating, his touch burning her. “My real friends will understand!” she flung back at him.

“Since you have made it painfully clear to me, madam,” he said through clenched teeth, “that I am not one of your friends, I see no reason why I should have to!” Mercifully, the music swirled to a halt just then, and all the dancers stopped. Mechanically Elizabeth applauded the musicians, and without looking at Darcy left the floor before the next dance could start. She felt dreadful, as if something catastrophic had happened, almost physically ill. He was so angry; she had never seen him so angry, even after she had refused his proposal at Netherfield.

“Are you well, Lizzy?” Jane asked, when she found her. “You are very flushed.”

“It is only the warmth of the room—only, I do feel rather dizzy. Perhaps I ought to go home—or outside. Yes, I think I ought to get some air.”

Jane waved at her husband across the room; he came to them, and readily gave Lizzy his arm. She took it, and they went outside to the shadowed garden. The cool air was refreshing. She could not think of what had just happened; instead she focused on the night, the closed flowers, the moonlight. She felt her heartbeat begin to slow as they strolled around together, Bingley tactfully silent. After a time, he steered them to a bench, and they sat.

At long last she let out a deep sigh. “Dear Charles,” she said, “you really are my favourite brother.”

He smiled, but his face looked troubled in the moonlight. As if in confirmation, he rubbed the back of his neck rather worriedly and began, “Lizzy, I know—it is probably not my place, but I must tell you that I could not help but see you were dancing with Darcy just now.” She said nothing, and he pressed on. “You did not look—that is to say, it did not seem to me that—”

“Please!” She put her hand on his arm. “Please don’t ask me.”

He hesitated, then seemed to accept her request. The next moment, both of them looked up as the figure of a man could be seen moving quickly in their direction. All of Elizabeth’s serenity vanished again.

Charles stood and moved forward a few steps to meet him. “Darcy!”

The other man halted. “Bingley.” He was looking beyond his friend, to where Elizabeth sat on the bench, but Bingley did not move back, and Elizabeth did not move forward. “I saw you bring Miss Bennet outside,” he said at last. “I hope that she is well?”

“Oh yes,” replied Bingley easily. “She was a little overcome by the heat, that is all.”

“It was very hot,” he said. “Bingley, if you would like to return to your wife, I—”

“I am better now.” Elizabeth rose and went quickly to take her brother’s arm. “You will take me inside now, won’t you, Charles?”

At first she feared that Darcy would argue the point, but after a moment he bowed, and so they went inside, Darcy walking behind until they reached the house, where he bowed again and left them. Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief. Looking up she saw that Charles’s countenance was troubled again, and she felt even more guilty, but what, after all, could she do? At least she would be going home soon. With a little luck, she would hardly need to speak to Darcy in more than passing ever again. The prospect made her feel bleaker than ever.


SubjectAuthorPosted

The Way It Ought to Be, Chapter 10

Suzanne OOctober 21, 2016 02:25PM

Re: The Way It Ought to Be, Chapter 10

Lucy J.October 23, 2016 06:12AM

Re: The Way It Ought to Be, Chapter 10

Suzanne OOctober 24, 2016 12:56AM

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Suzanne OOctober 23, 2016 02:54AM

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EvelynJeanOctober 22, 2016 04:51AM

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EvelynJeanOctober 22, 2016 05:06AM

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KimberlyOctober 21, 2016 11:38PM

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UnbirthdayGirlOctober 21, 2016 11:29PM

Alias

Amy I.October 22, 2016 04:25AM

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Diana TOctober 21, 2016 11:13PM

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GioiaOctober 21, 2016 07:28PM

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GioiaOctober 21, 2016 07:40PM

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KarenteaOctober 21, 2016 08:30PM

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AilishOctober 21, 2016 10:06PM

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Michelle AnneOctober 22, 2016 01:26AM

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KarenteaOctober 21, 2016 11:18PM

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Tessa LOctober 22, 2016 03:01AM

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LizzySOctober 21, 2016 08:07PM

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SarahC.October 21, 2016 07:27PM

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DevriesOctober 21, 2016 07:01PM

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BubbleblueOctober 21, 2016 06:34PM

Alias

Amy I.October 22, 2016 05:37PM

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SabineC.October 21, 2016 06:07PM

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terachanOctober 21, 2016 05:55PM

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LizzySOctober 21, 2016 05:53PM

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JanetROctober 21, 2016 05:45PM

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KarenteaOctober 21, 2016 04:55PM

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Diana TOctober 21, 2016 10:52PM

Re: The Way It Ought to Be, Chapter 10

KarenteaOctober 21, 2016 08:27PM

Stairs analogy: well put! (nfm) (nfm)

SabineC.October 22, 2016 12:53PM

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KentOctober 21, 2016 03:57PM

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gioOctober 21, 2016 03:40PM

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