|The Art of Misconception
Author: Marilolo PM
P&P: Netherfield. Jane is sick, Mr. Bingley is concerned, and Miss Bingley is green with envy. Where are our two heroes? AU encounter.Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance/Humor - Words: 4,421 - Reviews: 48 - Favs: 73 - Follows: 18 - Published: 10-27-04 - id: 2111462
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This is a little blurb that I've been adding on to in my free time, and I finally finished it today. So, naturally, I decided to post it. Anyway, so everyone isn't confused, this is set when Jane is sick at Netherfield (it's an AU encounter).
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The Netherfield Estate, the pride and joy of Longbourn and the most beautiful manor for twenty miles around, was considered by many a most comfortable, well-settled place, and those who were invited to visit (or those wealthy enough to purchase it) were confirmed very lucky people indeed, and were the envy of the entire town. Elizabeth Bennet, though not without her protests towards a handful of certain ill-humoured hosts, could understand most readily the allure of the estate; and, besides, she was always one to admire a grand, marvelous thing, whether it be artistry or architecture, having none such magnificence herself. What she admired most about the estate was not its slightly formidable size and costliness, but the homely, comfortable feeling that seemed to seep from its very walls.
It was no trouble at all that Elizabeth had come; her only wish was that Jane had come in perfect health, and her senseless mother had not sent her through the rain, knowing that, in the process, her dear, darling daughter would catch cold.
And, she supposed, it would have been most endurable if the hosts were as good-natured, generous, and charming as Mr. Bingley, who, disregarding Jane herself, was perhaps the only agreeable person for two square miles.
- - -
It was difficult to say exactly whom Elizabeth loathed more at the moment - Miss Bingley or Mr. Darcy.
Both were connected to Mr. Bingley in a intimate way, so she could dismiss that advantage on their side; their attitudes were strikingly similar, in both tone and air, and it seemed that their only goal of the evening was to slight Elizabeth as many times as possible. Both wealthy beyond comprehension, conceited, and proud, she determined that they deserved each other. Who were better suited than a couple of mismatched fools with too much money to know what to do with?
Elizabeth had never been one to be easily insulted, however; and with this thought she walked composedly through the hallways of the Netherfield Estate, only slightly angry and even more determined to ignore their attempts to mortify her. For she knew that they only tolerated her as the sister of Miss Bennet, and that their disgusting pride and the thought of superiority only went so far as to appease them slightly. She knew that they despised sitting in the same room with her, dining with her, and most horrifically, having to speak to her as if she was their equal.
To Elizabeth, this was most amusing, as she never bestowed on herself the title of equal; and she never owned those claims in her life. She thought of this and had to smile at their absurdity. She had never done anything to secure their bad opinion, and yet they were treating her like an unwelcome rodent. Elizabeth knew she had no claims of good fortune, nor a very respectable family; but was it fair to declare her as disagreeable as the rest? No, indeed.
If everything else was disregarded, perhaps this point hurt slightly. Elizabeth knew that she was, by no means, part of a family considered nice by the majority of the household. That was, except for Mr. Bingley, who, like Jane, could not utter a single derogatory thing about anybody.
Elizabeth was so caught up with these thoughts that she had not noticed Mr. Darcy's presence, and when she did, it was too late to absent herself. Feeling very much disgusted with her inattentiveness, Elizabeth raised her head.
'Miss Bennet,' declared Mr. Darcy.
'Mr. Darcy,' said she.
'What are you doing, wandering around the hallways?' said he, smiling. 'I do hope you are not lost.'
Elizabeth fought the urge to snap at this bait, but composed herself and said, 'No, thank you. I was just – I mean, I had just come back from visiting my sister.'
She wondered why she had said this, because he just gave her an indifferent look, and said, 'You do know that your sister is housed above you.'
'Of course,' said Elizabeth shortly; 'I came downstairs.'
'Of what concern is it of yours?' said she coldly.
'I see that you abhor me, Miss Bennet, there is no need to draw out my pain,' said Mr. Darcy. 'I am merely questioning the rationality of such a statement. You have been pacing these corridors for a quarter of an hour.'
Elizabeth was obliged to disregard how he knew such a thing, and said, in slight anger, 'I have such an obvious wish of being alone, Mr. Darcy, that even someone who tends to ignore the feelings of others could see it.'
His eyes narrowed at this slight. 'I see.'
'I am glad.'
'Well, I suppose that I will just have to close my eyes to ignorance,' said he, 'for only an assumption of such ill-devised knowledge can be ignored so blatantly.'
'My ignorance, as you so put it, I assure you, is nothing compared to your want of feeling.' She lifted her head, and said, 'Good day, Mr. Darcy.'
She turned to walk out of the room, but his voice said, 'You choose to loathe me for no apparent reason, and you say I am in need of feeling? I have allowed myself precautions, yes, but only because I do not want to allow myself to be engaged in society that is below my standards. I have my limits, Miss Bennet, and if you call that a want of feeling, then I have nothing to do but rebuke you.'
Elizabeth turned around and faced him. 'Pride, Mr. Darcy, is the most disgusting trait of all.'
'And ignorance, Miss Bennet, is another.'
Having enough, Elizabeth stormed out of the room. To her utter surprise and anger, she heard Mr. Darcy's footsteps come up behind her. She refused to turn around, however, and kept walking, breathing heavily. Oh! how she detested the man! Elizabeth wanted nothing better than to walk home to Longbourn this instant. Even Jane, sweet, unassuming Jane, could not stand such butchery of her character! Elizabeth felt as if she had been picked to pieces. And called ignorant, by a man whose virtues were the worst traits an agreeable person could possibly possess!
Desperate to get away from him, she turned and opened the first door she saw and walked through. Fueling her anger even more, she realised with a fair amount of surprise that she had not walked into a room as expected, but a closet. Cornered at a dead end, Elizabeth turned around.
'Do you plan to harass me some more, Mr. Darcy?' she snapped, feeling venomous. 'Because if you wish to secure my good opinion, it is lost!'
Mr. Darcy looked almost as furious as herself. 'I would not want your good opinion for the world, Miss Bennet, I assure you.'
'Why are you following me, if you are so intent on loathing me?' said Elizabeth, crossing her arms across her chest. 'Are you just surprised that someone, perhaps a woman, could see you not for your money, but for your conceited ways? It is unreasonable, perhaps, that I, a woman not well-off, would not throw myself into your line of sight, wishing for approbation. It is ironic that the one woman, who would not dream of such a thing, would be the one you are following into a closet!'
'Are these your thoughts?' asked he unbelievingly. Pausing, he said at last, 'You run amuck with your assumptions.'
'Really, Mr. Darcy, I don't see why I should be taking your words to heart. I also don't see why you bother talking to me at all.'
'Perhaps you are a challenge.'
'You are insufferable.'
'If you hate me so extensively, why don't you leave?'
'My sister, if you remember, is sick.'
'I am talking about the closet, Miss Bennet.'
'This is not your closet, Mr. Darcy, and thus, I will not leave.'
'It is not yours, either.'
'I was here first. You followed me.'
'What shall you do alone in the closet, if I am to leave?'
'It is not my being here that secures my happiness. It is the thought of my outlasting you in will.'
'If you did not, I would see you as a simpleton.'
'More so than I am now?'
'Sarcasm, Mr. Darcy, is highly annoying.'
'Are you leaving now?'
'You heard me.'
'I am not leaving either.'
As if to anger her further, and prove his point, Mr. Darcy shut the closet door, stepped closer inside, and stood completely still, with his arms crossed over his chest. Elizabeth's frustration grew to an alarming extent at this, and she stood in stagnant anger, holding her tongue; hoping, that in changing tactics, her silence would keep him away.
Inside the closet was pitch-dark; the only sliver of light to be seen crept from beneath the shut door. Still, Elizabeth did not attempt to leave. She was not going to lose to this man.
They stayed silent for a complete two minutes, before Elizabeth snapped, 'Just leave, Mr. Darcy. You know I will not back down.'
'Will you not reason with me?'
'On what matter would that be appropriate, Mr. Darcy? Our mutual dislike should manage - if all other means fail - to secure our complete and utter silence.'
'Our mutual – upon my word, Miss Bennet, how you do assume!'
'I assume only when I have a ninety-nine percent chance of being right,' said she. 'It is not unreasonable, nor should it be depicted as so.'
'I do not understand.'
'Your arrogance, perhaps, blinds you?' asked Elizabeth, smiling with little true warmth.
'You misunderstand everything about me and you still wish to slight me. I cannot imagine why.'
Elizabeth gaped at his shadowy outline. 'You cannot imagine why! You have tremendous faults, Mr. Darcy, but you are by no means stupid.'
'Enlighten me, then, as if I was.'
'I slight you only because you have slighted me. And, you have made yourself out to be the most disagreeable man alive!'
'I highly doubt that,' said he, 'for you can hardly know every man alive.'
Elizabeth let out a cry of frustration. 'It is the point, not the logicality, which I am trying to inform you of!' She could almost see him smirking, and felt so angry she said in a short, temperamental tone, 'If you are unwilling to discuss this in an adult manner, I cannot help but hold you in lower esteem than I had before this afternoon. I am leaving.'
She almost thought that he would stop her, but he didn't, and she strode to the door, grabbed the doorknob tight in her fist, and twisted it. To her absolute dismay, it did not turn. She tried again, but the doorknob was stuck fast. With animosity and slight panic, she whirled around to face Mr. Darcy; he was staring at her.
Her hand was still on the doorknob. 'It won't open,' Elizabeth cried.
'You must be mistaken.'
'I am quite serious, Mr. Darcy!' she snapped. 'It will not open, the door is stuck fast!'
Mr. Darcy brushed past her, gripped the doorknob and twisted, but to no avail.
Elizabeth felt the burning feeling inside her chest rise to her throat. 'What have you done?'
'Do not accuse me!' he cried, trying the door again.
'Whom else am I to accuse?' was her retort.
He chose to ignore this comment, as he knew it to be out of anger, and said to Elizabeth, 'We must try another way.'
'You got us into this mess,' she cried. 'You think of a way! I am not to blame.'
'You are not to blame!' he repeated, in suppressed rage. 'You went into the closet in the first place!'
'You followed me and shut the door!'
'You have wrongly accused me of every kind of evil, I had no choice but to retaliate.'
'You are guilty of every kind of evil,' she cried.
'I am guilty of no such thing.'
'Yes, you are.'
'No, I am not.'
'Yes, you are!' With this last cry, Elizabeth moved to the far side of the closet, away from Mr. Darcy, and sat down on the floor. Mr. Darcy stayed standing. Her temper rose as the minutes ticked away. Finally, he said:
'As we are trapped here, for the time being, we might as well be civil.'
'I have no wish to talk to you, Mr. Darcy,' said she vehemently.
'I hope your family is in good health,' he said politely.
'Do not talk to me,' warned Elizabeth.
'That's just charming,' he continued. 'You have four sisters, correct?'
She turned away from him and stared at the wall.
'Your sister Jane is very agreeable.'
'You sound surprised,' snapped Elizabeth, forgetting herself.
'You strive to insult me, then?'
'Not you, Miss Bennet,' said he.
Such a compliment (small though it was) had never been heard by him, and Elizabeth, despite her protests against having his good opinion for any reason, found herself feeling lightened by the mere thought that he did not measure her against her three youngest sisters, namely Lydia, who had inadvertently brought shame upon her entire family.
They lapsed into silence once again; Elizabeth said out of gratitude more than anything: 'You do not happen to have any family of your own?'
'A sister,' said Mr. Darcy. 'Georgiana.'
Elizabeth only murmured a small 'oh' of acknowledgement. Mr. Darcy leaned his weight against the side of the closet and crossed his arms. She was so very uncomfortable; she had not earned this torture, having to converse with a man so completely disagreeable it gave her great indignation just to utter his name. She held on to this thought and kept herself silent.
'Are we going to wait until Bingley comes searching for us?' asked Mr. Darcy at lost last.
'He would not assume to find us together, surely!' cried Elizabeth in mortification. 'That is – it would be such unsteadiness on the part of myself, to dislike so readily and then – you do not think he would infer such nonsense, do you, Mr. Darcy?'
'I cannot say for sure,' said he. 'But if it is so utterly distressing to be found with me, then pray, tell him the truth and it will be settled.'
Elizabeth was at this moment forced to bite back her words as she considered what he had said. It brought shame, shame that she had not known existed. And he, Mr. Darcy, the hard-hearted man, devoid of sympathy or anything related, seemed genuinely hurt by this remark on her side; Elizabeth felt truly sorry to have caused him pain. She was never cruel without purpose. But why was she feeling shame if her purpose was so blatantly portrayed? She knew why she loathed him so; she had gone over such feelings time and time again. Elizabeth turned her face away so he could not read what was written there.
'I did not mean –' she started softly.
She dared a look at him; he was staring at her, a very strange smile on his face. 'You are an odd creature, Miss Bennet.'
In an unexpected display of feeling, Elizabeth felt her cheeks grow warm. 'I am hardly what you would call odd, Mr. Darcy,' said she; 'though if you mean my faults, I can assure you, they are an essential part of my makeup. I would not trade my faults for all the gold in England.'
Mr. Darcy, in a very amused voice, immediately exclaimed, 'Faults! ah, but they are common! We would all be odd if you considered faults as such. I meant, and still stand by my opinion, that you, Miss Bennet, are different, refreshing, in a way entirely your own.'
'I suppose this is your way of complimenting.'
He turned his head towards her. 'If you consider being completely unlike women of this day a compliment, then yes, it is.'
'Alas! you misunderstand me,' cried he. 'You are so intent on being hated by me, so distracted by your shell of indifference - you do not understand me, Miss Bennet, and perhaps you never will.'
'Then do not speak as if I did,' said Elizabeth sternly, 'for it only makes me feel uncomfortable.'
'I should think we had gone past that stage,' said he.
Elizabeth frowned at this. 'You do not attempt to put our acquaintance in stages, Mr. Darcy!' she cried in astonishment. 'I had thought our opinions were settled of each other. I consider you a proud, disagreeable man and you think me ignorant and misjudging. Perhaps even stubborn, if I may infer.'
'Opinions, despite what you say, are not carved in stone,' said Mr. Darcy.
This silenced Elizabeth. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, trying to glimpse a portion of her face she was not willing to let him study, and she said: 'Whatever I was expecting, it was not that. I thank you, but it is not in my character to change mind because of simple alteration on your part; you may think of me what you choose, but I will not, can not, like you.'
Mr. Darcy did not say a word, and they were both left to reflect upon every word, every sentence uttered between them, in hope of interpretation. Elizabeth found herself feeling quite gratified, at the same time feeling appalled for feeling gratified, and feeling guilty for feeling appalled. She could think of nothing but the meaning of his words. Oh, how she wished he would come outright and say what he meant! If he meant to dislike her, then it was terribly unjust to leave her in suspense; and if he was willing to attempt to secure her good opinion, he was coming about it in such a wrong way! by annoying and harassing her until lengthy amends were necessary! Elizabeth was furious at him.
At length, Mr. Darcy spoke: 'Miss Bennet, I cannot tell lies. And whatever my faults, I cannot own being completely ignorant to the feelings of others; I know what you must think of me. Whatever judgments you made in relation to my attitudes and priorities have been from my own ill-humours. I do not blame you for being biased, and I offer to apologise most readily for my behaviour towards you at the ball. I am sure it is the basis of your dislike.'
Elizabeth was surprised. 'I was not too badly injured, I assure you.'
It was his turn to be surprised. 'I was sure I caused a dent in your happiness that evening, though it was not until afterwards that I felt any remorse.'
She laughed. 'You needn't have. It was all just a silly joke to me. "She's not handsome enough to tempt me!"' she mocked, and then laughed again. 'Mr. Darcy, you just made the ball more interesting.'
'Though you were right in one case,' said Elizabeth; 'my dislike was formed from that encounter. And, that you had not snubbed just me, but the whole room of ladies!'
'You must have thought very ill of me,' said he.
'Yes,' she replied. 'Yes.'
'I hope,' Mr. Darcy continued thoughtfully; 'I hope that I have improved somewhat in your eyes.'
Elizabeth turned away unspeaking, and it was some time before either of them spoke again. She thought about the statement, the essential question, and wondered at it. If he was so indifferent of her opinion of him, why did he provide her with such awkward inquisitions? She felt an odd fluttering in her stomach as she thought about it. It was truly wrong of him to do so, truly wrong. And for a man of such society as his, so well-bred despite his pride, it was abominable!
Before Elizabeth could recover her rather withering façade, she stood up and moved to the door again to try the lock. With a bit of annoyance, she felt Mr. Darcy's eyes upon her, but she dared not look. It had not been very difficult to insult the man before, hate him with every fiber of her being; but it was strange; she was thrown into a state of confusion. She could not, for the life of her, discern her hatred from the small amount of respect she held for him, coupled perhaps, by the feeling that he had chosen to speak to her, to make amends, when he was so obviously unwanted; and that, despite coldness and loathsomeness from her, he had still pursued her good opinion with a kindness unexpected. Elizabeth could not help but respect.
The lock, as expected, was still sealed shut.
'Perhaps we should try force?' said Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth nearly jumped at the sound of his voice, forgetting his presence, but then recovered quickly, saying:
'That will never do.'
Mr. Darcy did not question her, but did not seem so bothersome to him to have to stay in the closet, as it did to her. 'Well – we shall have to wait then.'
Elizabeth nodded, but inwardly felt very flustered. Why didn't she want him to break down the door? Could she, perhaps, want to stay here with him? Indeed it was an awkward question for even herself to answer, and she did not quite know what to think.
'I do not hate you,' Elizabeth found herself saying to him, as if it was a question he had asked. It was formed initially to break the silence, but she found it became somewhat of a peace offering.
Mr. Darcy looked over at her, surprised. He soon smiled. 'I am glad of it.'
He held her gaze, still smiling, and Elizabeth did not look away. Presently, he commented, 'Perhaps we shall both learn to look upon each other as friends.'
Elizabeth saw his hesitation, but did not comment on it. Instead, adding her own thoughts, she said, 'I very much doubt that could happen, Mr. Darcy. We are too different. To have nothing in common! it would only be torture for the both of us.'
'I appreciate that you can keep an unfaltering opinion, Miss Bennet, but,' pausing slightly, 'I believe that in this case, it is better that your opinion changes.'
'I suppose you know all about my opinions.'
'I think I am quite overpowered by them.'
Mr. Darcy's eyes were fixed on her so determinedly Elizabeth found herself becoming flustered. 'And I shall make presumptions only to raise your dislike!' cried she in bristling defense. 'You are a hypocrite to the worst degree.' Mr. Darcy only smiled. 'You are an insufferable man,' she told him angrily. 'Do not look at me so! I may think as I choose!'
'Dearest Miss Bennet,' Mr. Darcy said in powerful emotion, still smiling affectionately, 'my hypocrisy is a trifle, considering what you have said and done. However,' pausing and edging closer to her, 'I think I shall dismiss those blasphemous sins for the time being.'
'My blasphemous sins!' cried Elizabeth. 'You have quite overstepped your boundaries, sir!'
Without her noticing, Mr. Darcy had made his way towards her; and, in one fluent motion, took her hand, pressed it, and brought it to his lips. His eyes met hers and she stood quite still, her arm still outstretched as if forgetting to draw it back. Speechless, flustered, and infuriated, Elizabeth could not, for the world, think of what to do. Both of them were silent, Elizabeth in a stunned state, and Mr. Darcy a mixture of being astounded at his caprice and feeling hopeful of her reaction.
It was most frustrating for Elizabeth, whom, with any other circumstance would have protested and allowed her anger to reprimand him most heavily, could not utter a single word in defense of herself – or, to chastise such behaviour. What he had done was not particularly wrong and most completely gentleman-like as to not warrant unwelcome feelings from her – but no, she convinced herself, surprised at her sudden change in feeling, it was wrong, most barbaric. He was quite aware of her feelings. To do such as thing was the same as disregarding her wishes, and this, quite a criminal offense in her eyes, was the epitome of disrespect. Whatever her logic however, Elizabeth was in disarray.
'Do not be alarmed, madam, of my wishing to be your friend,' said Mr. Darcy after a long, suffering silence.
She could not have been more surprised. She opened her mouth to speak, but found she could not.
Suddenly, as if the vastness of their mutual tension was fated to last longer than a few awkward silences, the door of the closet opened, and Mr. Bingley was upon them, looking simply astounded at seeing them together, Mr. Darcy with a look of hopeful determination, and Miss Elizabeth Bennet, with a look of flustered confusion.
'Why, Darcy, my dear sisters and I have been waiting for you in the sitting-room! Is this where you have been, all holed up with Miss Bennet?' He laughed good-naturedly. 'Do not be selfish, Darcy! We must all bask in her good graces this evening.'
Mr. Darcy was silent. Elizabeth stole a glance at him. Her heartbeat seemed to return to normal as she took Mr. Bingley's offered arm and answered the concerned question of 'I hope your sister can sit with us tomorrow evening' with a 'I hope of it, sir'. She was not quite sure whether Mr. Bingley's interruption was indeed welcomed or disappointing; and with a flutter of anxious spirits, made her way back into the sitting-room, where again she was assured, by Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, of the odd comforts of mutual dislike.
- - -
I'm not really sure whether I want this to stand on its own, or have more chapters. We'll see, we'll see. I'm actually partial to the ending, because it really conveys my point across, and in some ways, stays faithful to Pride and Prejudice.
Anyway, thank you for reading and drop a review if you have the time! I'll consider adding on a couple chapters or so, just for the fun of it. Who knows.