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Another Month Complete 3

June 23, 2020 02:12PM
Chapter 3

Normally, Elizabeth thought herself quite capable of making the best of uncomfortable situations, but this prolonged visit in Kent was quickly becoming intolerable. At Rosings, there was Darcy and Lady Catherine to contend with and at the Parsonage, Mr. Collins … who was becoming more and more irritating each day. His unrelenting lectures and self righteous tone made the hairs on her neck stand on end, so she naturally tried to escape whenever she could. She would walk the grounds of Rosings for hours and sometimes even accompany one of the maids to Huntsford village on a shopping expedition. But, she was, after all, Charlotte’s guest, and her loyalty to her friend demanded that she spend more time with her.

However, on a gloomy, rainy day, when she could listen to her cousin's sermonizing no longer, her only option was to escape one house for another. She decided that this was a good time to accept Lady Catherine's offer of practicing on the piano in Mrs. Jenkinson's room. “I will be in nobody's way in that part of the house.” she mused to herself. “I will be blissfully on my own!”

So she told Charlotte that despite the foul weather, she felt obliged to go and work on a piece her Ladyship had suggested she play. For hadn't she been reminded, time and time again that she was sorely in need of practice?

Charlotte's color deepened with embarrassment as she recalled Lady Catherine pointing out to all assembled that Elizabeth's playing had clearly not improved. “Yes, I suppose you should go. Though I am grieved at how much Lady Catherine is imposing on you, Lizzy. I am so grateful to you for taking all this with such forbearance and patience. You could not be a better friend.”

“Well, then you had better lend me the largest umbrella in the house and not say a word about the old battered shoes I am going to wear. I brought them along for just such an occasion.” Elizabeth replied with a laugh.

Not ten minutes later did she find herself before Rosings' ornate front doors, and hesitating for just a moment, made her decision to skirt around to the servants' entrance. There, she was greeted with wide eyes and concerned looks.

“Is anything amiss, Miss Bennet? Is there something that you need?” asked one of the kitchen maids.

“Would you happen to know the whereabouts of Mrs. Jenkinson, Miss?” said Elizabeth, smiling. “She has offered me the use of the piano in her room and I wish to know if this is a convenient time.”

“Yes, I believe she is in the library with Miss Anne. Shall I fetch her for you?”

“Please. I am much obliged.”

Mrs. Jenkinson graciously led Elizabeth up a flight of stairs to her bed chamber and after offering her some water or tea, left her on her own to practice. Happily, Miss Anne had not accompanied her companion. Surely, the stairs would have been too much for her.

Elizabeth sat down and lightly touched the keys, then lazily ran through a few scales and arpeggios. Clearly the piano needed tuning. Suddenly, she rose with a start and realized, with amusement, that she had not come prepared. The sheet music she needed was in Lady Catherine's grand parlor. Shrugging her shoulders, she turned to lift the lid of the piano bench. To her surprise, there was an abundance of sheet music, far exceeding the meager selection in the parlor below. Much of it was obviously aimed at beginning students, but other compilations were the popular standards of the day - very easy Bach, some Hayden and Mozart. But not the one she needed. She therefore chose a simple Hayden piece and began to slowly plunk out the notes for the right hand. Sight reading was not her strong suit. It was gratifying to know that no one was about to hear her struggle with one measure after another. After about twenty minutes of reading out the short piece again and again, she slammed both her hands down on a dissonant chord. “Urgh! Why can't I get this section right?”

From the corridor outside her door game the sound of a stifled giggle and the rustle of fabric. The patter of slippered feet made their way down the hall.

“Oh no you don't!” whispered Elizabeth to herself as she dashed out of the room to find the culprit who had invaded her privacy. But the corridor was empty and silent. She soon realized that whoever it was, must have ducked into one of the rooms along the hallway. There had not been enough time to get to the stairs at the other end. She saw that there were only three other doors on the floor, three possible places to hide, but she couldn't very well open any of them! Given that Mrs. Jenkinson resided on this floor, these rooms surely belonged to other members of staff. Elizabeth stamped her foot and grumbled. She could not stand the thought of being bested. Placing her hands on her hips, she called out rather loudly.

“Come out and show yourself, whoever you are! I will not report this incident to her Ladyship as long as you come forward and assure me that you will not spy on me again!

The silence in the corridor seemed to last forever, but then the closest door on the left slowly opened. To Elizabeth's complete surprise it was Anne de Bourgh who timidly stepped out. Elizabeth had expected one of the servants!

“Please don't be angry, Miss Bennet. I do so love to hear you play and it is such a welcome diversion for me.”

“You could have asked me to let you sit and listen,” said Elizabeth, trying to keep a stern face. “I doubt I would have been able to refuse you. This is, after all, your home.”

“I wanted you to feel at ease here, so that you would wish to return more often.” said Anne. “I suppose it was foolish of me to think that I could have this pleasure without your knowing. My motives are selfish, I know, Miss Bennet, but I meant no disrespect. Please believe me. I didn't want to embarrass you in any way!

“But you just couldn't help laughing at my frustration. No, that was not at all embarrassing!” said Elizabeth rather harshly.

“No, no! You misunderstand. I was simply so surprised by your frustration. ”

“I beg your pardon?” said Elizabeth, her brows raised.

“Oh, I am not explaining this very well. It is just that you always seem so poised and confident at the piano, Miss Bennet. I would never have believed that it is such a chore for you to learn a new piece. You make everything look so easy. Forgive me for saying so, but it comforts me to know that I am not the only one who struggles with something new. So much of life is a struggle for me.”

Elizabeth had not heard Anne say a word in all the evenings they had spent in the same company. This was not the same dull and listless girl she had observed all these weeks. She regarded Anne with momentary skepticism. “Is she being clever … or this genuine?

“Well then, you had better come and join me” she said with a stern face, but extending her arm toward the open door.

Miss de Bourgh entered timidly and looked about for a chair. The only one she saw was against a wall on the opposite side of the room. She moved towards it.

“Oh no. Let me move that for you,” said Elizabeth, finally relinquishing her stern expression and smiling warmly at Anne. “Come sit by me.”

Anne accepted the seat with obvious pleasure. “Oh, now I shall be able to see how your hands move across the keys, Miss Bennet. I have never been close enough before.”

“Yes, now you shall see, first hand, how my fingers trip over each other in this troublesome section.” laughed Elizabeth. “But I suppose I should give it one more try. We mustn't give up so easily, must we?”

Anne shook her head and smiled, obviously eager for Elizabeth to begin.

Elizabeth continued to flounder over the same few measures, then sighing and shaking her head in disgust, announced her rebellious decision. “Do you see this cluster of notes, Anne?” she asked, pointing to them on the page, “ I cannot manage the fingering! It is simply too fast for me! But, where is it written that I must stay completely faithful to Herr Hayden's score?” she asked with a cheeky grin. “I'll simply eliminate these three eighth notes and make it easier to play. There, it doesn't seem to radically alter the melody, does it?” she asked, playing the phrase through smoothly.

“No,” said Anne, in a most serious tone. “I know nothing about music, Miss Bennet, but it sounds like it was written that way. It is beautiful! Truly.”

Elizabeth chuckled. “That is because those notes formed what is called a trill – just an added
embellishment. I would not be able to cut three notes from the heart of the melody. Nevertheless, I am depending on you to keep my disloyalty to Herr Hayden a secret.”

“Of course, Miss Bennet. You have my word.”

The sound of their laughter wafted through the open window just in time to land on the ears of Fitzwilliam Darcy who was returning from an exhausting afternoon in the fields with the land agent. It was his habit to enter the house from the service entrance when his boots were caked in mud and his person was unfit to be seen. Hurrying up the back stairs, he would then navigate the servants' corridor to the other side of the house, in stocking feet, boots in hand.

But just now, his instincts told him to back away and he hurried around the corner of the house just as Miss Elizabeth Bennet came tripping down the stairs and out into the sunshine. She appeared rather pleased with herself, and whirling about once or twice, proceeded to skip down the gravel path towards the Parsonage. The sight of her warmed him to the depths of his soul. He shook his head with both pleasure and pain.

He had vowed to avoid her company for just this reason. It would be awkward and uncomfortable for her, but acutely painful and embarrassing for himself. So why had he engaged her with sparkling water and sweets the other evening? And why had he shared such personal information regarding his family? Of course, he knew why. He knew precisely why! He could not give her up! He could not see a life without her. His mind told him to stay away, but his heart, his limbs and his tongue refused to follow directions.

On her return to the Parsonage, Elizabeth recounted the astonishing events of the afternoon to her friend, who was naturally very surprised. “But I'm afraid I shall have to return again tomorrow, Charlotte. I didn't work on the Mozart her Ladyship is looking forward to, so I must prepare it before another dinner invitation arrives.”

“Oh, Lizzy! Did you not see the messenger as you came in? An invitation for tonight was just delivered.”

“Yes... yes I did see him, but I assumed it was some church matter involving Mr. Collins. Anne must have pressed her mother to invite us directly after we parted. I believe she now regards me as her new best friend, poor dear.”


The astonished look on Darcy's face went unnoticed by most of the guests as they entered the main foyer, but Elizabeth thought his surprise was palpable. Clearly, he had not expected the Parsonage guests this evening. Straightening from his bow he held her gaze for a prolonged period of time, then turned away suddenly to walk to the window on the far side of the room. A few weeks earlier she would have thought him rude, but knowing his feelings for her had altered her perspective. Oh, he was still the man who had very likely ruined her sister's future happiness and the defiant son who had spurned his father's wishes to deny a rival his living. Certainly, nothing would have persuaded her to accept such a man ... yet she found that she was no longer obsessed with hating him. There was no need to spar with him or outwit him. She needed only to get through the next two weeks without anyone learning their history.

Setting down her knife and fork, Lady Catherine turned her attention to Elizabeth. “I understand that you have finally made an effort to improve your performance at the piano forte, Miss Bennet. Will we be enjoying any evidence of that this evening?”

“I'm afraid it will take much more than an hour's practice to improve my performance, Ma'am. I would not wish to disappoint you.”

“Be assured I have no great expectations of you, Miss Bennet. You will never play really well. But tell me, did you at least make a start on that lovely Mozart Sonata I suggested to you?”

Darcy tugged at the cuffs of his shirt sleeves and sifted uncomfortably in his seat. Elizabeth cleared her throat.

“I am sorry Lady Catherine, but I did not come well prepared today. It was thoughtless of me, I know, but I neglected to take the sheet music with me when last we met and I had no way of procuring it this afternoon.”

“Have you no legs to carry you, Miss Bennet? Why did you not come and fetch it?”

“I did not wish to be in anyone's way in this part of the house, Your Ladyship,” said Elizabeth.

Lady Catherine slowly raised her chin, pressed her lips together tightly and peered at Elizabeth through slitted eyes.

She had gone too far! She knew it the moment the words had been uttered.

“But I did manage to learn a lovely new melody by Hayden that I think you will like,” said Elizabeth quickly, trying to turn everyone's attention away from her sarcastic remark. “It is not yet perfected, but....

“I have not always been a great admirer of Hayden,” interjected Darcy in a casual tone, “but Georgiana has taught me to appreciate the beauty in his style of composition. I wonder if your piece is one I will recognize? I am very anxious to hear it, Miss Bennet.” Then turning to Lady Catherine, he said, “Aunt, I believe we are all finished here. Shall we adjourn to the parlor to enjoy some music?”

Lady Catherine did not answer his query but continued to glare at Elizabeth. Time hung suspended until Anne rose from her seat, and very uncharacteristically, said in a strong voice, “ I should be very pleased to turn the pages for you if I may, Miss Bennet.” Everyone stared. Lady Catherine turned towards her daughter with an astonished expression, but said nothing. At that, the gentlemen rose as well, and Anne proceeded to lead the party out of the dining room. Darcy hung back to offer his arm to his aunt. “No point in making her even angrier,” he thought.

“Anne cannot read music, Darcy. How in the world will she know when to turn the page,” hissed Lady Catherine. “The start of this evening has been nothing but aggravation, Darcy, and I am most displeased with the way it is progressing!”

Another Month Complete 3

Gaby A.June 23, 2020 02:12PM

Re: Another Month Complete 3

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