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Re: Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 2 (Part 2)

April 11, 2017 03:59PM
Later that evening, after eating in her room, Lizzy decided that the hour had come for her to spend time with her hosts. Jane was comfortably sleeping. As she approached the trunk that was brought for her, she opened the lid with trepidation. Please tell me Mary packed this and not Aunt Fanny. She sighed as she saw her best ball gown sitting on top of the clothing. Oh well, at least being near Miss Bingley means I will not be overdressed. As she lifted the gown out of the trunk, she saw more serviceable dresses underneath a note written in Mary’s clear handwriting.

Lizzy,

I am sorry. Mama unpacked the trunks after I packed them. I was able to fix yours but Jane’s still has Mama’s choices in it. She only included the one dress for Jane and I saw ALL of Jane’s nightgowns go in.

Also, a word of warning, if Jane is still ill on Friday, Mama is planning on bringing all of us to Netherfield to visit her “poor sick Jane.”

Mary

Lizzy laughed as she pictured her aunt informing her uncle of those plans. After pulling a few more dresses and a serviceable nightgown out for the evening, she realized that Mary had included the two books that she had on her nightstand – in one of them was stuffed a new letter from her grandfather. Lizzy frowned; I did not put that there. I left it on my dresser. She then realized that her aunt had probably tried to read it, she silently thanked Mary for hiding it in her book and then sending the book with her.

Lizzy choose a nice cream evening dress from the trunk, dressed for the evening, grabbed one of the books and after checking to see if Jane was still sleeping, took a breath and exited her temporary room.

When she gained entrance to the drawing room, it was apparent that no one noticed her presence. Mr. Bingley, Mr. Hurst, Mrs. Hurst, and Miss Bingley were discussing intended plans for the next day, and Mr. Darcy was at a desk with a pile of letters to his right.

Miss Bingley was the first to notice her presence as Elizabeth ventured further into the room. Just as Elizabeth started to sit down on a couch, away from the majority of the room’s inhabitants, she heard Caroline call out, “Oh! Miss Eliza! You must come in here! We thought we would not see you for the rest of your stay!”

“I apologize for my absence, Jane had a restless day.”

“That is dreadful to hear!” exclaimed Mr. Bingley, “I had hoped that your presence meant that she was feeling better.”

“I cannot say that she is better, she still has a fever, one of the maids is sitting with her, and I felt that I could not neglect our gracious hosts anymore. She is sleeping, though.”

“Good. Rest is what Darcy said the doctor ordered,” cried Mr. Bingley enthusiastically. Elizabeth smiled as she heard the blatant respect and admiration for an action that included no more than writing down a few notes.

“Thank you again, Mr. Bingley, for allowing me to stay until Jane is well enough to travel,” Elizabeth stated calmly.

“Anything you need Miss Bennet! Anything at all!” Mr. Bingley replied.

Elizabeth continued, “I wanted to thank you for sending a servant for some of our things, Miss Bingley. I had expected for one of Longbourn’s servants to arrive with them, it was kind of you to send one of your own.”

Elizabeth saw the slightly startled look that passed Miss Bingley’s face.. She also did not miss how Miss Bingley’s eyes darted to where Mr. Darcy sat with his correspondence. “Yes, well, I wish for both your and your cousin’s comfort while at Netherfield.” It occurred to Lizzy that she had, yet again, something for which to thank Mr. Darcy.

It is apparent that Mr. Darcy comprehends more clearly than anyone else in this room, how to provide for company, whether they were originally invited or spur of the moment guests. However, it is rather officious of him to simply make the arrangements instead of including Bingley. If he is truly here to teach Mr. Bingley how to manage and estate, would he not explain to Bingley what the complete duties and responsibilities of being a host are? Instead he simply does it himself and Mr. Bingley allows him to over step his bounds in his own house.

Is Mr. Bingley really that unprepared to be the master of an estate that he would allow himself to be so used by his friend? And what of Miss Bingley? Is it not the hostess’ duty to see to her guests comfort? Why would she allow Mr. Darcy to take upon himself her responsibility? Or is Mr. Darcy that overbearing that it is simply easier to capitulate to his will? I can understand Miss Bingley deferring to him, since it is quite plain to see she wishes to marry him. As for Bingley, he is such an amiable fellow, he may wish to avoid discord and so allows his friend to do what he wills.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Miss Bingley cried, “Miss Eliza, please come and sit next to me!” She indicated the spot to her left, “I feel as if we have not gotten to know each other very well. As you can see, Mr. Darcy has abandoned us this evening; something about business he still must attend to. Thankfully, Charles convinced him to bring the less important ones in here this evening so that we might not be deprived of his company the entire evening.”

Miss Elizabeth hesitantly made her way over to the spot that Caroline had directed her to and gingerly sat. Caroline continued as soon as she was able and said, “I understand from Jane that you receive a lot of correspondence as well.”

Looking at the stack next to Mr. Darcy, Lizzy laughed, “Mine is not nearly as important as Mr. Darcy’s. My correspondence is from family and friends, not business.” Thinking of the mounds of paperwork she had seen in her grandfather’s study on multiple occasions, she added, “I can, however, understand the need to complete necessary correspondence in a timely manner.”

“Oh, but Darcy is not conducting business,” interjected Mr. Bingley, “I forbade him to!” He cried cheerfully. Elizabeth smiled as she entertained the thought of Mr. Bingley being able to forbid Mr. Darcy from doing anything. Her reverie was broken when Bingley happily continued, “He has personal letters to return tonight. Family and friends, you know.”

Smiling, Lizzy said, “Then I must not be as interesting as Mr. Darcy is, I do not receive letters from that many friends and family members.”

Mr. Bingley frowned and called out, “Darcy! You are only conducting personal matters? Correct? I will not have you shut yourself out from all company just to complete a few trivial matters!”

“I assure you Bingley, the business I am taking care of is not trivial, and actually not business related.” Mr. Darcy replied as he continued to write, “I am currently writing delivery instructions on my wishes for Georgiana’s birthday present. After which I have some letters to my sister, and a few cousins to respond to.”

“Capital!” cried Bingley, “Family first, I always say!”

At this point, Elizabeth was startled by Miss Bingley speaking with her in a louder manner than was unnecessary for how close they were sitting, “Speaking of family, Jane mentioned that you write to your grandfather. I understand he is not related to the rest of the Bennets?” queried Miss Bingley.

Elizabeth smiled as she realized it was now time for her inquisition, “No, he is not. He is my late mother’s father. My father was the brother to the current Mr. Bennet.”

“So you are not actually Mr. Bennet’s daughter?” asked Louisa.

“No,” Elizabeth responded, “I am his niece.”

Louise inquired, “How did you come to live with the Bennet’s”

“It was the wish of my grandfather. My mother died before I turned one, which left my father and my grandfather to attempt to raise me by themselves. When Father died, Grandfather felt I would have a much happier childhood growing up with my cousins, rather than an old man.”

Caroline stated, “It must be rather depressing to be reliant on one’s family members.”

Elizabeth raised her eyebrow and looked between Caroline and Mr. Bingley. She exchanged an amused glance with Mrs. Hurst before she stated, “I am sure it is, however, I was given a choice a few years ago and choose to be with my Bennet relations. My grandfather lives in London for most of the year and has more than enough means to support the both of us. I simply could not bear to part with Jane.”

“Oh! In which part of London does he reside?” asked Caroline, “Near Cheapside and your aunt and uncle, perhaps?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are related to the current Mrs. Bennet, they are actually not related to me,” responded Elizabeth, she added coolly, “but I have spent many a summer with them and love them like my own relations.”

Miss Bingley was becoming even more curious by the minute and asked, “And just who is your grandfather? If he lives in London, I might know him.”

Laughing at the blatant attempt to prove Elizabeth’s lack of relations, she only said, “I doubt that, Miss Bingley. Grandfather may spend much of his time in London, but he does not partake of much of society. It is highly unlikely that you would have met him. He has a very closed and close circle of friends.” To herself she thought, if you had had the privilege of being introduced, Grandfather definitely would have found it amusing and described you to me.

Miss Bingley took this as confirmation that Miss Elizabeth Bennet had no worthwhile connections. Louisa took this opportunity to speak with Elizabeth. “When was the last time you were in town Dear?” she asked.

“About five months ago,” replied Elizabeth, weary of the line of questioning, “I stopped there, before journeying north to visit my grandfather.”

Mrs. Hurst asked confused, “Is not London south of here?”

“Yes, but my grandfather was in London, and I wished to visit Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. We actually spent much of the first part of the summer traveling.” Elizabeth offered. She could not tell if Mrs. Hurst was being sincere in her wish to know more, but decided to allow the line of questioning.

“Oh? Where did you travel?” interrupted Miss Bingley. “I am sure it was quite lovely,” she added snidely.

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “Indeed it was. We visited a few places in Oxford before settling at my grandfather’s home. The countryside was beautiful and the houses quite magnificent.”

Louisa Hurst perked up at the mention of traveling; she longed to see more of the world, or even more of England, nut unfortunately Caroline had always found some excuse for them not to go. “Harold and I have always wanted to travel and see the sea. Have you been? ”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “Actually, I have been to the sea and enjoyed it very much. I have not been in a few years, but would love a chance to go back.”

Unlike Caroline, Louisa Hurst actually liked Jane and Elizabeth. She found Jane sweet and as angelic as Charles described her on a daily basis. However, there was something about Elizabeth that made Louisa want to know her better. In town, Louisa spent much time with her sister simply because her sister was always there. Many of their plans were either made my Caroline or changed by Caroline. Unfortunately, Caroline was the cause of many of Louisa’s friendships dying; many women liked Louisa but simply would not stand to be friends with Caroline. Something about Elizabeth told Louisa that she would not be frightened away so easily.

Louise smiled and encouraged Elizabeth to tell her of her travels, “Where did you go this summer?”

Elizabeth was taken a little by surprise; she had assumed Louisa would ask more about her grandfather. She probably will at some point. Instead of voicing her thoughts, Elizabeth responded, “Oh, the normal tourist attractions. We saw houses and grounds. For the most part, however, my grandfather and I did many normal everyday things: like visiting book shops. Oxford County has quite a few good bookshops they can boast of.”

At the mention of books, Caroline rose to go and speak with Mr. Darcy and see if she could attract his attention. Elizabeth smiled when she saw Louisa visible relax once her sister left. The two were quiet for a few moments, until Louise spoke. “Were you able to enjoy any of London’s plays, music, or galleries for the short time you were there?” questioned Louisa.

“Yes, actually,” Elizabeth responded, “I was taken to see one play and an opera. Outside of those, I must say, this summer was quite busy.”

Louisa asked, “Which was your favorite?”

Elizabeth replied, “I absolutely loved Cosi Fan Tutte. Guglielmo was superb when he sang ‘Vio Che Sapete’.” Elizabeth was aware of the sharp raise of Mr. Darcy’s head when he heard her response. It was apparent he knew the import of Elizabeth going to that specific opera.

Louisa was equally shocked when she heard Elizabeth had attended that particular event, “You were able to see it? Harold and I had been unable to get tickets.”

Elizabeth laughed and said, “My uncle was fortunate enough to be invited by one of his business partners.” Grandfather was so excited to take us. In fact, he enjoyed it so much, he went one more time with friends, she thought to herself.

“Were you able to meet Guglielmo?”

“No, we left almost immediately after the curtain closed,” Elizabeth responded. Grandfather did not want to stop to speak with anyone. “I will admit, we arrived rather late and we missed the first song. So, I have not seen the entire opera.”

“That is a shame.” Louisa said. She realized her sister was coming back to join them and asked Elizabeth, “Would you care to move over toward the fire with me?” Caroline was wearing an extremely heavy gown and Louisa knew she would not venture that close to the heat. “I find I am a little cold.”

Elizabeth rose and said, “Of course.” She had also noticed the heaviness of Miss Bingley’s gown and inwardly laughed at Louisa’s obvious attempt to remove herself from her sister’s company.

Thankfully, Mr. Darcy’s attention returned to his writing when the ladies moved away from the rest of the group to continue speaking. Elizabeth had been worried by his reaction to her comments that she might have given more away than she had intended. After all, one of the reasons her grandfather wanted to arrive and leave without anyone noticing them was due to the fact he was publicly appearing with his granddaughter. He had been so concerned with taking her out that he almost had cancelled the entire trip. Thankfully, Elizabeth had been able to convince her grandfather to put the tickets under Mr. Gardiner’s name. Her aunt and uncle arrived early and secured the box for themselves.

Elizabeth smiled in remembrance as she thought of her aunt’s description of multiple members of the quality finding out Mr. Gardiner was in trade. It was common knowledge that the Duke of Shrewsbury was so eccentric he would allow anyone the use of his box if it was available and he had no need of it. The members of the ton were simply used to steering clear of the duke’s box when he was not in attendance.

It was a tactic that had served James and Elizabeth well; they were able to go to multiple shows over the years, with the same strategy. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, sometimes with Jane, would show up early and scare off the ton due to the, and halfway through the first act, Elizabeth and her grandfather would arrive unseen. Elizabeth and James would sit behind the Gardiners and as far back into the shadows as they could. Society for years had just deemed them acquaintances of the Gardiners. Refreshments would be retrieved by one of the guards left to bar the entrance to the box, then halfway through the final act, Elizabeth and James would leave as unobtrusively as possible.

Only once had they been stopped by someone who knew the duke. Thankfully, Elizabeth had walked on ahead and then was escorted to the carriage by one of the Duke’s guards and the acquaintance was still left none the wiser.

However, this past opera, Elizabeth and her family would have only been able to see the opening night and Elizabeth had so wanted to see Guglielmo. They never went to opening nights as there were simply too many people who would recognize the Duke. James had only barely been persuaded...

Even if Louisa did not understand the import of Elizabeth being able to attend, Elizabeth could only hope that Mr. Darcy was in the same fog. Having moved far enough away from Mr. Darcy, she felt safe for the rest of the evening, and by the time she retreated to Jane, Elizabeth felt Mr. Darcy would have forgotten about her comment.

Elizabeth’s thoughts were diverted when Louisa said, “I will admit, Netherfield is starting to feel like home. It is very happily situated.”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “Indeed, your brother is making some very pleasing adjustments.”

“What do you mean?” asked Louisa..

Confused, Elizabeth stated, “For example, the front staircase. The last time I was here, for a ball the last tenants held, the front steps had this enormous crack up the side of it. Your brother had the staircase either repaired or replaced, I think, since the crack is no longer there.”

Louisa nodded her head in agreement and Charles interrupted from across the room, “That was Darcy! I did not even see you fall, Louisa!”

Elizabeth looked at her host and his sister with confusion, until finally Louisa told the story. “The day my sister, husband and I arrived, we were walking up the steps, I was not watching were I was going and proceeded to get the heel of my boot caught. A week later, we found workers on the front steps.”

Charles called out gaily, “I did not even know I had ordered them! I assure you; we were all in a muddle until Darcy came back from his ride and explained that he had commissioned them so Louisa would not fall again. As I said, I was not even aware that she had taken a tumble.” Turning to where Darcy was still writing his letters, he called, “I am not even sure I would have known who to contact about fixing it. You really have been a help, Darce!”

Darcy simply replied, “It is what I am here for, Bingley, to help you learn how to manage an estate.” With a pointed look at his friend he added, “And the comfort of your guests, especially family, should always be a concern to you. If you had listened when I had told you what had happened, you might have made the arrangements yourself.”

Elizabeth’s thoughts were in a jumble. The longer she spent in the company of her hosts and their guest, the more it seemed as if the serious Mr. Darcy was the master of the estate rather than the jovial Mr. Bingley. Shaking the confusion away, Elizabeth spent the rest of the evening enjoying a quiet conversation with Louisa. She was pleased to discover that Louisa was very interested in Mrs. Gardiner’s charities. When the two separated for the evening, Elizabeth could not help but feel as if she had made a new friend in the lady. She was concerned though; she was quite pale. I wonder if she too is getting sick.



Each day the routine was the same for Elizabeth: she would take her meals with Jane, and after lunch, she would manage a short walk for some fresh air, and then immediately return to her dear cousin. Once Jane was sleeping for the night, Elizabeth would venture downstairs to where her hosts would be. She took her books with her each night and spent a good deal of time fending off questions about her lineage from Miss Bingley. At some point in the evening, she and Louisa would move toward the fire and spend the remainder of the night in quiet conversation. Mr. Bingley was normally very cheerful and seemed to encourage the friendship she was forming with his eldest sister. Mr. Darcy brought his correspondence every evening with him or a book of his own.

The second to last evening she was there, as Elizabeth entered the drawing room, she overhead Miss Bingley attempting to gather Mr. Darcy’s attention, “How uncommonly fast you write Mr. Darcy, and evenly! If only Charles would write that well.”

“Here now! Your handwriting is not much better than mine!” Charles exclaimed.

“Charles! You know what I mean!” hissed Caroline.

Lizzy thought, everyone knows what you were meaning to do.

Caroline had already turned her attention back to Mr. Darcy, “How is Georgiana, Mr. Darcy? Your sister is such a delight. I look forward to seeing her again. Please, in your letter, tell her that.”

“Miss Bingley, I have already done that, at your request. I have much more to say to her and do not wish for her to get bored reading too many pages. She has been waiting on this missive for almost a week now. If I continue to add to this letter, she may never receive it!”

Elizabeth giggled to herself at the apparent frustration Mr. Darcy was attempting to keep from his voice.

Miss Bingley, however, seemed not to notice her guest’s irritation, “It is no matter; I will see her soon and how I long to! She is such a delight!”

“Darcy when you are finished with your letter to Georgiana, why do you not play cards with Louisa, Mr. Hurst, and meme?” Mr. Bingley asked when he got the chance. “I assure you, we will not send the correspondence out until your letter is in it.”

When she saw Elizabeth, Miss Bingley cried, “Ah! Here is Miss Eliza! Leave Mr. Darcy alone Charles, Miss Eliza can make our fourth!”

“Thank you, but I must decline; I wish to finish my book.” Elizabeth said.

“Prefer reading to cards do you?” asked Mr. Hurst from the table, “How singular.”

“Miss Eliza loves reading and takes no pleasure in anything else!” declared Caroline.

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure. I do like to read, but am not a great reader, I also take pleasure in many things not literary,” responded Elizabeth.

Miss Bingley replied, “But you have read every night this week.”

“Indeed, there are two recent novels that I have been attempting to finish it so that my younger cousins may read them. They expressed an interest in discussing them once we had all finished. I simply had not made much progress until I came here.”

“Hmm. Miss Lydia and Miss Kitty never struck me as the bookish type.” Miss Bingley said with a coy look to Mr. Darcy.

Frowning at the obvious slight, Lizzy stated, “It is Mary and Kitty who have been attempting to understand each other better.”

“Miss Mary? I thought her chosen skill was the pianoforte?” Mrs. Hurst asked carefully, ““I understand she practices often.”

“She does.”

Realizing that Mr. Darcy had started to fold up his letter,, Miss Bingley attempted to draw him into the conversation and said, “Oh the piano! Just mentioning it reminds me of your dear sister, Mr. Darcy. She plays so wonderfully.”

“She practices often.”

“Miss Eliza, not having met Georgiana, you would not begin to understand what a kind and accomplished young lady she is. Her skill at the piano is divine.”

Mr. Bingley, at this point added, “She does play very well. I simply do not understand how so many ladies are accomplished: they play, they sing, they paint, they write, and do every so many different things.”

With a frown Caroline cried, “All ladies accomplished, Charles? Hardly. I would wager I only know half a dozen who can be considered accomplished. Surely, you agree with me, Mr. Darcy?”

“Indeed.”

Caroline continued to expand upon the topic, “A lady cannot truly be considered accomplished unless she has a keen grasp on languages, such as French, German, or Italian. No one can be truly accomplished who does not have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, and dancing, and beside all of this, she must have something in her walk, her air, her manner of speaking.”

“Indeed,” interrupted Mr. Darcy, “To all this she must improve her mind with extensive reading.”

Arching her eyebrow at the character that Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy were drawing, Elizabeth thought, Yes, I can well image that you two would believe that these are the qualities that make an accomplished woman. Each description dripping with the same vanity to which you hold yoursevles. To the group, however, she responded, “I can hardly believe that you know six such women, Miss Bingley, I actually wonder at you knowing any.”

Shocked, Miss Bingley responded, “You are severe upon your sex, Miss Bennet! I assure you, I know many such women.”

“I have never met a woman as accomplished as you describe.”

Sneering at Elizabeth, Miss Bennet stated, “I assure you in my wide circle of friends in London, there are many such ladies. Perhaps it is your current situation and limited country society that has allowed your lack of connections and friends.”

Feeling extremely attacked, Elizabeth decided it would be best to leave the argument to Miss Bingley, and said, “Perhaps, however, I find I am actually quite tired; I hope you will forgive me the time and allow me to retire.”

“Of course.”

As Elizabeth climbed the stairs to the check on Jane she thought to herself, Oh Miss Bingley, if you knew what my current situation was and who my limited country society is, you would be acting quite differently toward me.

Elizabeth reached her cousins’ room and was delighted to see that the writing supplies had been refilled. She had not had a chance to look prior to this, and had no reason to. Elizabeth quickly looked to where Jane was calmly sleeping and decided to send a quick note to her grandfather. She was certain if Mary or Kitty visited with Mrs. Bennet the next morning, one of them would post it for her.

Elizabeth promptly sat down and moved the candle closer to where she sat and started writing. She knew James would be amused by more of her study of the inhabitants of Netherfield.

However as she wrote of their conversation that evening, Elizabeth was beset with more than a little bit of uneasiness. She had never given it much thought, but was she accomplished enough? Grandfather may not care for the approval of the ton, but then he has always had it through his station. Will my lack of languages be a problem? I am sure I could learn one of them, if necessary, but certainly not all of them in time for my debut next summer. I am well versed in Greek and Latin, and my Italian is passable, but I could never have a conversation with confidence I have had dance masters, as have my cousins, but I do not know if we have learned all the latest dances. My drawing is deplorable, my singing passable, and I cannot be considered proficient at any instrument.

Elizabeth was not one to dwell on subjects of which she was unfamiliar. She had always believed that if she felt deficient in an area it was up to her to learn more about it. It was this feeling of inadequacy that pricked her pride and had her writing for study materials of her own.

Grandfather, it has come to my attention that I may not be considered accomplished by society standards. I know you have never been one to care for the quality or the ton’s standards; however, I have no wish to embarrass you amongst your peers next summer. Please, if you would, find me some study materials to enable me to learn either French or German. It may be foolish and is most definitely my pride rearing it’s ugliness, but there is nothing wrong with expanding one’s knowledge.

In fact, if I learned more Italian, we might visit Italy someday, and I would be able to fend off those who would seek to take advantage of our tourist status. Surely, you would enjoy such a trip? I am quite certain I would. However, since Jane is swiftly falling in love with Mr. Bingley, and Reverend Forsythe is changing our good Mary for the better, we may have to invite Catherine on this quest. She has never been further than Meryton and it would be good exposure for her.

Knowing that he would never wish to travel outside of England, Elizabeth smiled as she continued teasing her grandfather. She had heard many times that since he returned from his European tour with his brother, before his twin died, James declare his wished to visit no country who could not offer a proper tea. Elizabeth wrote late into the night until her letter was complete.



The next morning brought Mrs. Bennet and the rest of her daughters to Netherfield’s door. After a quick visit to Jane to ascertain how ill she was, Mrs. Bennet was shown into the parlor where the Netherfield party was waiting. After Mr. Bingley asked after Miss Bennet’s health, Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, “She is a great deal too ill to be moved. We must trespass on your kindness a little longer.”

“Of course! We would not hear of her being removed until she is well!” he cried.

It was Miss Bingley who answered more coolly than civility required, “Miss Bennet will receive every attention while she is here.”

“I thank you for your kindness! If it was not for such good friends I do not know what would become of her, for she is very ill indeed. Though she suffers a great deal, she does it with the greatest patience in the world, which is always the way with her. Jane has, without exception, the sweetest temper I have ever met with.” Mrs. Bennet stated. With the pleasantries out of the way, Mrs. Bennet changed the subject almost immediately, “Oh! Mr. Bingley! What a lovely room you have here! I think that you will never want to leave Hertfordshire now that you are settled!”!”

“Indeed! I am quite enjoying my time here!”

“I hope you do not decide to leave anytime soon!”

Mr. Bingley waved Mrs. Bennet off and said, “I have no interest in removing at this time. However, I will confess, that whatever I do, I normally do in a hurry. If I were to quit Netherfield I should probably be off in five minutes. However,” he said as he looked toward the door that would lead to the upstairs area, “At the moment, I find myself quite fixed.”

Elizabeth laughed as her evaluation of her hosts’ character had been confirmed and said, “That is exactly what I thought you would do!”

Smiling, Mr. Bingley turned toward Elizabeth, “You begin to comprehend me, do you? I should take that as a compliment, however, to be so readily understood and seen through is quite pitiful.”

Elizabeth just laughed, “I will admit to enjoying studying a person’s character. However, Mr. Bingley, you have no fear of me,” Elizabeth casually looked over to Mr. Darcy as she added, “You do not have to be a deep, intricate character to be liked more.”

“Lizzy! Remember where you are!” cried Mrs. Bennet, “You simply cannot act in that wild manner your uncle permits while at home!”

Elizabeth had the grace to blush at this comment. Louisa sought to make her more comfortable and said, “I have never thought about studying people; you must find it amusing.”

“Yes. I enjoy observing different characters very much; it keeps me amused.”

At this point, Mr. Darcy interrupted and said, “The country, can in general supply but a few subjects for such a study. In a country neighborhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society.”

“Confined? Unvarying?” Exclaimed Mrs. Bennet, “I cannot see that London has any great advantage over the country, except for the shops and public places.”

“Aunt, you mistake Mr. Darcy’s meaning,”,” Elizabeth said, blushing yet again.

“Really? That gentleman seems to think the country nothing at all.”

“Mr. Darcy only meant that there is not as great a variety of people in the country as in London, you must acknowledge this to be true.”

“Indeed,” was all Mrs. Bennet said.

It was at this point that Lydia, who had been silent the entire time, spoke up, “Mr. Bingley, you promised you would hold a ball and it would be a shameful thing if you do not keep your word.”

“Lydia!” exclaimed an upset Mary.

Mr. Bingley only laughed and said, “I am perfectly ready to keep my promise. After your sister is well again, I will let you name the day of the ball!”

The ladies from Longbourn only stayed a few more minutes after that. As Elizabeth walked her family out to their carriage Mary and Kitty approached her, “I understand you will be here for a few more days. Unfortunately, Mama was able to get one of your letters. Thankfully, Kitty caught her before she could read it. She offered to take it to Father who asked me to bring it.”

Worry creased Elizabeth’s brow as she saw the letter had been opened, “Did she – ”

Kitty was quick to assure her, “No. I saw her open it. I knew you wish to keep your correspondence with him private and called out before she was able to get the letter from its envelope.”

Visibly relieved, Elizabeth stated, “Thank you, cousins. I will see you soon.” As she watched Kitty enter the carriage she asked Mary, “Does she know…” as she indicated the letter she was given. Mary shook her head and said, “No,” as she entered the carriage.

“Oh!” Lizzy cried as she rushed to her family’s carriage. She handed a letter to Mary through the window and said, “Would you please make sure this goes out with the mail?”

Mary smiled, retrieved the letter, and nodded her head in agreement. Elizabeth stepped back from the carriage just before it lurched forward to leave.

When Lizzy made it back to Jane’s room, she realized that Jane was not as ill as Mrs. Bennet had led Mr. Bingley to believe. In fact, she was so improved she decided to join the Netherfield Party for dinner that evening. When Jane arrived downstairs, Mr. Bingley and Miss Bingley immediately took Jane to a far corner to talk. Lizzy laughed to herself whenever Mr. Darcy came close to the small group, as inevitably, Miss Bingley would latch onto him.

For her part, she chose to play checkers with Mr. Hurst, who was actually quite an intelligent fellow. Throughout the evening he admonished her to learn to play chess. After realizing that Louisa Hurst was reading Shakespeare, she and Mrs. Hurst entered into a very deep discussion about his play “Much Ado about Nothing” after realizing both had seen it in London.

It was late in the evening, when Elizabeth and Louisa’s conversation dwindled for a moment. Elizabeth noticed Louisa became somewhat distracted and asked her about it, “Mrs. Hurst, is something the matter? You seem melancholy all of a sudden.”

Elizabeth followed Louisa’s eyes as they darted to where Jane and Bingley were seated together near the fire. Instantly, Elizabeth felt irritation at the thought that Louisa would have a problem with Jane. I thought she was different.

Instantly she felt ashamed at her thoughts when Mrs. Hurst said quietly, “Nothing is wrong, I assure you. My melancholy will not last. Indeed seeing Charles’ apparent happiness does wonders for my own attitude.” Mrs. Hurst looked at her husband with a smile before she turned back to Elizabeth, “Please believe me when I say, I have never seen Charles so…enamored by another person before. I quite approve.” Then as if she had just realized, Louisa added, “And please, enough of this Mrs. Hurst. I am Louisa, and you are Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth nodded her head in agreement and both ladies turned their attentions to the couple clearly pleased with each other as they spoke near the fire. Elizabeth looked at where Caroline was torn between trying to get Mr. Darcy’s attention and glaring at Jane and her brother where they sat.

Elizabeth frowned at the scene and said to Louisa as she watched Caroline, “I am pleased with your support; it is obvious some have no wish to approve of your brother’s happiness.”

Louisa frowned as well as she replied, “That is true. However, my brother is his own man, he may seek advice but in the end he will always make his own decisions.” As she said this, Louisa yawned loudly.

Elizabeth smiled and said, “It is good to see I am not the only one who is tired. I had best rescue my sister and retire for the evening.”

“Oh, Miss Elizabeth, you do not have to go to bed just because I am tired! Stay, enjoy your book,” Louisa offered, as she rose. Mr. Hurst started to follow, as Louisa made her goodnights.

As Elizabeth retired for the evening, she took out the letter she had received from her grandfather. As she read it, she was quite pleased that her aunt had not been able to intercept it: her grandfather had filled the letter with stories of his friend’s birthday party and all the upper echelon people who attended it.

For I know Eddy and Bea were just as amused as myself when the visiting Count Orlofsky became so intoxicated that Lady Carlisle actually had to remove him from her sitting room. Eunice was quite put out, I assure you, and Henry will hear about his new friend in the morning.

Eddy and Bea were considering leaving London in a few days’ time. They have invited me to stay at Matlock for a bit. I admit, I am tempted, however, I know I should make a trip soon to Heythrop and will probably leave in the next month or so. I wonder if they would be willing to come with me instead. I have not had a good bit of hunting in a while, at least since Henry’s last hunting party. What was that, last year? The year before that? I cannot remember.

As Elizabeth continued to read her letter, she started to feel a little at a loss. She missed her grandfather terribly. Normally she missed him when she came home to Longbourn, but this year, something was just not sitting right: Almost like I am not where I should be, she thought. Oh well. It might just be homesickness. Jane and I have been too long at Netherfield.
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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 2 (Part 1)

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