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Another Month Complete

June 19, 2020 03:31PM
Chapter 2

With no invitation forthcoming from the great house, Elizabeth managed to avoid Mr. Darcy for some three days. She planned her walks for varying times of the day, changed her usual route and was ever vigilant for the sound of hoof beats as she sought out new places to explore. She remembered only too vividly the encounter in a wooded intersection a few days before the infamous proposal (for all her recollections were now categorized as “before the proposal” or “after the proposal”). The shock of coming upon her so unexpectedly had obviously befuddled the well bred Mr. Darcy, for despite a moment’s hesitation, he had turned and ridden away without so much as a nod in her direction or the tipping of his hat. She had naturally been convinced that this behavior was further proof of his disdain. Yet now she understood that there must have been something more behind his uneasiness. No matter the reason, she did not wish to find herself in that uncomfortable situation again.

But then the dinner invitations started up again and she had no choice but to deal with whatever came her way.
*****

“You are particularly dull this evening, Miss Bennet! You have not said two words together since you arrived.”

Elizabeth looked up from the handkerchief she had been fingering and blushed unwittingly. For Charlotte's sake, she wished to be civil, but she could not muster up the animation required for Lady Catherine’s amusement. Clearly, she had not been following the conversation, and to her own bewilderment, found herself, yet again, furtively studying the movements of Fitzwilliam Darcy. It seemed that her dislike of the man had not altered her desire to make him out—though she bristled at this ludicrous fascination. Did she not already know the essence of the man? Had she not told him, in no uncertain terms, what she thought of him?

Oddly enough, with the silence that had naturally grown between them, came the opportunity to observe and reflect. Downcast eyes now replaced the bravado that had once marked their encounters. This came as a welcome relief to Elizabeth, who was only too happy to serve out her captivity in Kent in the solitude of her own mind. But after a few evenings of what she had believed to be indifferent observation, came a most bewildering development. All her senses had become acutely attuned to the horrible man and she became painfully aware of his every step and gesture. She did not need to see him move about the room to know exactly where he was or what he was doing; she could feel it. What’s more, she believed she understood the motivation for most of his actions and could actually anticipate them!

His routine excursions to the window, for example, seemed to come immediately after an embarrassing remark made by his aunt or Mr. Collins—as if hiding his countenance would prevent it from betraying him. Suddenly rising to replenish his port was one way of removing himself from an uncomfortable situation. And shifting uneasily in his seat or tugging at his shirt cuffs signaled his anticipation of yet another ridiculous turn in the conversation. Strange as it would seem, his opinions, whether actually spoken or left to the perception of the observer, seemed to concur, most decidedly with her own. She and Mr. Darcy seemed to be interpreting situations and conversations in the same way! Horrified at the thought that she was beginning to think like him, she tried to redirect her focus. But it was to no avail. Her senses were unconsciously linked to his.

“Miss Bennet, I am not accustomed to having my questions ignored!” said Lady Catherine in an irritated tone.

“Forgive me, your Ladyship,” said Elizabeth, forcing her thoughts back to the present. “I was glad to hear, once again, that Mrs. Metcalf was so delighted with your recommendation of your apothecary, but I am at a loss as to what more I could add to that happy declaration.”

Elizabeth’s impertinence, so thinly veiled, had not escaped her Ladyship, and she received an icy stare.

“Perhaps, had you had a proper governess, Miss Bennet, you would have been taught that guests share an equal responsibility in keeping up a lively conversation.” Her Ladyship shook her head to punctuate her displeasure. “Well, if you have no pert opinions to offer this evening, you might as well make yourself useful at the piano forte,” she said, banishing Elizabeth to the instrument with a dismissive wave of her hand.

The corners of Elizabeth’s mouth drew up slightly in amusement, but she nodded demurely and obligingly rose from her chair. As she turned towards the piano, however, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s broad frame suddenly blocked her path and wordlessly bade her stay.

“Really Aunt,” he now said, turning towards Lady Catherine. “We would not wish Miss Bennet to believe that she is obliged to sing for her supper.” Darcy’s irritation was clearly evident.

“What? This coming from you, Darcy? You, who are always urging me to invite the Parsonage so that we may have a bit of music. I thought you a great admirer of Miss Bennet’s talents? Though given the example set by your sister, I cannot understand why.”

Darcy’s ears turned a distinct shade of crimson, a mixture of outrage and embarrassment flashing across his face.

“I do admire Miss Bennet’s singing,” he said after a moment’s pause, “and though it would give me great pleasure to hear her perform, I would not have her believe that it is her duty to do so. She is a guest in this house, after all.”

“A guest you encourage me to invite to liven up the evening!” retorted her Ladyship. “Or so you have claimed. Can you deny it, Sir?”

Darcy’s only response was to turn his back on all the company and to stride quietly towards the window, his hands clasped tightly behind his back. Obviously, there was nothing he could do or say to check his aunt’s tongue!

Elizabeth, mortified for them both, quickly forced everyone’s attention upon herself, saying, “Indeed, your Ladyship, I would very much like to play. I do not often have the opportunity to play on such a fine instrument. And at home—well, my sister Mary is considered the better musician.”

At this remark, Darcy shot Elizabeth a curious look, then grasping the purpose of her jest, gratefully acknowledged it with an almost imperceptible nod. While Elizabeth held her own expression in check, the sparkle in her eyes did not go unnoticed by the gentleman at the window. Despite all that had happened between them, she felt the need to diminish his humiliation. Why this should be, he did not know.

No sooner had Elizabeth seated herself at the grand instrument, then the Colonel, who from the first, had appointed himself her official page turner, came to claim his seat beside her. Elizabeth smiled at him warmly, though an odd and melancholy sensation swept over her. She glanced towards the window just in time to see Darcy’s sunken expression, before he, once again, turned away.

She had always imagined that it had been the Colonel who was petitioning Lady Catherine for the Parsonage’s numerous invitations, for she believed him to be her sole admirer at Rosings. How unsettling it was to now learn that it had been Mr. Darcy all along! She suddenly understood the dark, piercing looks he had directed towards them whenever she and the Colonel were engaged in conversation. Fitzwilliam Darcy had been coveting his cousin’s place beside her at the piano.

*****

Elizabeth had been playing for more then half an hour when refreshments were brought in, and she was glad to have the opportunity to stretch her legs. Besides, she had exhausted all the sheet music to be had at Rosings. As no-one played, the selection was rather limited. She would next be obliged to play the few pieces she knew from memory, and she was certain that her modest repertoire would not impress her Ladyship.

“Allow me to bring you some tea and sweets,” said the Colonel as he led her by the elbow to one of two winged chairs set a bit apart from the rest of the company. This was not what Elizabeth had had in mind, for she would have much preferred a turn about the room with Charlotte. But as there was no way to refuse without giving offense, she smiled appreciatively and lowered herself into the chair. At least it was cooler in this part of the room. The great candelabra on the piano forte had made her rather warm.

No sooner had the Colonel retreated, then Mr. Darcy unexpectedly appeared before her with a fluted glass and a small plate of confections.

“I hope I’m not being presumptuous, Miss Bennet, but I thought you might be in need of some cooling refreshment,” he said, taking the seat beside her and handing her the glass.

“I… that is… the Colonel…” stammered Elizabeth, looking anxiously to the other side of the room where the gentleman in question was heaping petit-fours and strawberries onto a plate. It was an awkward situation, to say the least, but she was, nevertheless, amused that Darcy had planned the timing of this little coop so precisely. …and somewhat ashamed of herself for so eagerly anticipating the look on the Colonel’s face when he returned.

“Well…yes, Mr. Darcy. I am in need of a cool drink—though I fear the wine will, in time, make me warmer still.” She forced a smile, but accepted the glass and took a sip. Her eyes widened in surprise.

“I took the liberty of mixing the wine with some sparkling water, Miss Bennet. I hope it meets with your approval.”

Elizabeth could not help but laugh. “Indeed it does, Sir. It is most refreshing! I have heard that this sparkling water is all the rage in London, but have never had the opportunity to sample it myself. I can see why it is so popular.”

“Yes, my sister enjoys it very much, as well. I had ordered some cases to be sent upon my arrival at Rosings, but they arrived only yesterday.”

“Oh, so you are expecting your sister then,” said Elizabeth, naturally inferring that the two remarks were linked. “I’m sure your aunt will be glad to have a true musician at her piano.”

Darcy looked momentarily puzzled, then genuinely thoughtful. “Actually, there is no such plan in place, Miss Bennet,” he said slowly. “My sister has been awaiting my arrival in London these many days, but I have been horribly delayed by the business here. I fear she is most unhappy being alone in London with only her companion. Perhaps it would be best to have her join us.”

Confused by Mr. Darcy’s remark, Elizabeth sipped her wine in silence. Why had it taken her mistaken assumption to encourage such a devoted brother to include his sister in a family gathering, she wondered.

As if reading her mind, Darcy shifted uneasily and said in a hushed tone. “My sister is a rather shy and sensitive young woman, Miss Bennet. She has yet to learn that one cannot take all of her Ladyship’s comments or suggestions to heart. Georgiana often feels overwhelmed by what she perceives as my aunt’s constant censure. …My sister has never been easy at Rosings.”

Elizabeth blushed. She did not know what to do with this unsolicited bit of personal family history. And although she was curious to ask why Mr. Darcy would therefore consider bringing Miss Darcy to Rosings now, she naturally kept the question to herself. But why was Darcy paying her such particular attention? Why did he not remain at the window where he felt safe? If only the Colonel would return and rescue her!

Eagerly glancing towards the refreshment table, Elizabeth was suddenly aghast at the sight of the Colonel watching them with an amused grin. He was sipping the tea she knew he had poured for her and raised the cup as if to toast the scene before him. Elizabeth blushed with mortification! Had all this been previously arranged? Did the Colonel know their history? Had Mr. Darcy told him of the proposal?

Angered by the thought that he might have shared the event with another living soul, Elizabeth turned towards Mr. Darcy with fire in her eyes. But looking into his somewhat bewildered and questioning face she instantly realized that it could not be. Fitzwilliam Darcy would not confide such feelings to anyone, let alone a handsome young cousin whom he saw, at times, as a rival. No, Mr. Darcy was as innocent as she. The Colonel’s generous affection for his cousin was evident, and Elizabeth gathered he was mistakenly tickled by the fact that it had taken Darcy this long to assert himself.

*****
SubjectAuthorPosted

Another Month Complete

Gaby A.June 19, 2020 03:31PM

Re: Another Month Complete

Maria VJune 22, 2020 11:31AM

Re: Another Month Complete

Gaby A.June 22, 2020 03:06PM

Re: Another Month Complete

CarrieAnnJune 21, 2020 05:24PM

Re: Another Month Complete

Shannon KJune 21, 2020 02:47PM

Re: Another Month Complete

Gaby A.June 21, 2020 04:32PM

has Elizabeth read the letter?

TrishaJune 21, 2020 11:09AM

Re: has Elizabeth read the letter?

Gaby A.June 21, 2020 04:25PM

Ah! Thanks (nfm)

TrishaJune 21, 2020 07:10PM

Re: has Elizabeth read the letter?

PaulineJune 21, 2020 01:26PM

Re: has Elizabeth read the letter?

Gaby A.June 21, 2020 04:30PM

Re: Another Month Complete

Lynn TJune 21, 2020 03:15AM

Re: Another Month Complete

MichelleElleJune 21, 2020 01:54AM

Re: Another Month Complete

Gaby A.June 21, 2020 02:20AM



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