Almost everything is taken from Jane Austen, I will part further from the books the further I get through, sorry for anything that seems to be repeats – it is only that the original author could put it better than I. : )
Before this begins: Jane went to Netherfield, and promptly fell ill. The first thing the next morning Elizabeth walks all the way to Netherfield quite surprising the others there. The ladies - Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst - spend the morning with Elizabeth and Jane, since the gentlemen are out. Elizabeth is pleased by their appearance of genuine care for Jane.
When the clock struck three, Elizabeth felt that she must go, and very unwillingly said so. Miss Bingley was on the verge of offering her the carriage when a maid entered the room in great hurry.
"Our guest has just arrived, miss..." She seemed almost terrified as she offered her speech, but that was not particularly surprising; it seemed that few could face Miss Bingley without a trace or irritation or fear (if not both).
Miss Bingley hardly waited to make a polite exit; such was her impulse to greet the newcomer - whoever it might be.
It fell to Mrs Hurst therefore to truly make the offer, and Elizabeth only wanted a little pressing to accept it. When Jane testified such concern in parting with her, Mrs Hurst easily converted the offer of the chaise to an invitation to remain at Netherfield for the present. Elizabeth was glad to agree, more than surprised by the warmth of the offer. She hadn't expected to be welcomed with anything more than civility from the residents (with the exception of perhaps Mr Bingley - he imbued friendliness into his every action).
The loud voice of Miss Bingley rang through the halls and Mrs Hurst quickly beckoned Elizabeth to follow her. Unused to such familiarity, but urged by the encouraging smile from Jane, she quickly did so, casting a single worried glance in the direction of her sister as she left.
"Sister," Miss Bingley cried out so loudly it was almost unladylike. "You must come and greet our guest." Elizabeth stayed close to Mrs Hurst as the other hurried in obedience to her sibling's demand.
"Miss Darcy!" Mrs Hurst greeted with a smile that almost seemed reminiscent of her brother's. "We didn't expect you until later..."
"But we are so delighted you are here..." Miss Bingley swiftly took over the conversation. "I have quite longed to see you..." If anything Miss Darcy seemed quite overwhelmed by the attention she was receiving, and she seemed to struggle to find words to return to her friends.
"Miss Darcy," the young woman fixed her eyes on Mrs Hurst with an expression akin to relief. "May I introduce Miss Elizabeth Bennet?" Something like recognition sparked in the girl's eyes, Elizabeth couldn't entirely account for it. "She is staying here since Miss Bennet - Miss Jane Bennet that is - has fallen quite ill..."
It was almost the longest speech Elizabeth could recall Mrs Hurst making - she always seemed more to echo her sister's words. Still she made a polite curtsey passing a warm smile to the girl. Miss Darcy returned the gesture, albeit a little more hesitantly.
"But you must be quite exhausted, Georgiana..." Miss Bingley seemed unable to remain out of the conversation for long. "I must show you to your room..."
Miss Darcy was hardly even allowed to agree to the plan before her arm was taken familiarly by Miss Bingley and she was lead away.
"I will see that a servant is sent to Longbourn, Miss Elizabeth," Mrs Hurst only deigned to speak once they were a distance away. "Unless there is anything particular you would like to send with them, you are more than free to do as you will."
Elizabeth was quick to return to her sister's side, not entirely sure what to make of the recent developments.
At five o'clock, Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst finally returned to see Elizabeth and Jane – they couldn't tarry for they needed to retire to dress, but they paused long enough to inquire after their ill guest and to inform Elizabeth that dinner would be at half past six. It was precisely at that time, that she was summoned to dinner.
Elizabeth had barely entered before she was pressed with enquiries about her sister. Although she could be grateful for Mr Bingley's concern, his sisters' indifference – after their early exclamations of despair and repetitions of the unfortunate feeling of being unwell – could only sour her mood.
In fact, she was rather beginning to feel like an intruder within the company, Miss Bingley was pouring all of her attentions onto Mr Darcy – with the odd comment thrown to the younger Miss Darcy, as though she was only important in relation to her older brother – and Mrs Hurst appeared to be following along. Mr Hurst had briefly spoken, but she feared she had done something to offend him in one of her innocuous statements. Mrs Annesley, Miss Darcy's companion, was too far away to make any contribution to any conversation at all – or at least, in any in which she would be welcomed. In fact, Mr Bingley seemed to be the only one who spoke to her – both Mr and Miss Darcy seemed to speak as little as was at all possible – and she was all the more grateful for his attention. He was however greatly concerned for Jane, and Elizabeth felt that she must attribute some of his distraction to that fact.
She had resigned herself to this fact when she heard a very quiet voice start up beside her.
"Miss Bennet?" Miss Darcy looked unbelievably hesitant. Elizabeth couldn't tell whether her quietness was actually a result of being shy, as opposed to her brother's pride – Elizabeth hated to admit she had almost judged the girl by him.
"Please, call me Miss Elizabeth," She tried to be as friendly as possible to test her theory. "Miss Bennet is my older sister." After all she would hate to be judged by the behaviour of her youngest sisters.
"Is..." She paused and swallowed slightly. Elizabeth had the distinct impression that she was fighting hard not to repeat herself. "Is Miss Bennet so very ill? Only I asked the housekeeper and she said that she had been feverish all day?" She checked herself and looked down once more. "I'm sorry if I presume too much... I..."
"It is no matter..." In truth, Elizabeth was warmed by the girl's concern – it seemed that she had more of a heart than Mr Bingley's sisters who actually knew her. "The apothecary suggested that she will recover with rest..."
Miss Darcy nodded, a small smile answering Elizabeth's broader one. "I am glad," said she. "I cannot imagine how I would feel were Fitz- My brother to be so ill..."
Elizabeth had no ready reply, momentarily stunned to remember that this was Mr Darcy's younger sister. Dinner was soon over however, and her worry for her sister loomed again.
Elizabeth returned directly to Jane, and Miss Bingley began abusing her as soon as she was out of the room.
Georgiana listened in silence as Miss Bingley waxed onwards about the many faults of her new friend. She could hardly believe that any of the others were even paying their host the slightest bit of attention. Her brother was standing by the window with the vacant gaze that showed he was busying himself in his own mind – a habit he seemed to lapse into most frequently around certain individuals. Miss Bingley, for instance, seemed truly apt at encouraging him into such an occupation.
Mr Hurst seemed to have given up entirely on the conversation and appeared to be well on his way to being entirely asleep – and as much as she nodded and muttered agreements, Georgiana couldn't quite shake the feeling that his wife was only taking in about every third word. Mrs Annesley had spared herself from any such pretence by declaring herself quite fatigued and excusing herself altogether.
In fact the only one who seemed terribly preoccupied by her vitriol was Mr Bingley, and he had gained a kind of quizzical expression as though he couldn't quite understand his sister's complaints.
"She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild." Georgiana was surprised by such eloquence from Mrs Hurst – she had always found it harder to understand her than her sister. At times she could seem almost genuine, and then she would do something else, and Georgiana would be lost once more. Perhaps a longer acquaintance would aid her, but Georgiana couldn't guess at how much longer she would need.
"She did, indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all!" Georgiana felt the urge rise up in her to protest, but she couldn't muster the courage. She'd never defied Miss Bingley before – it would be intolerably rude – and yet, she couldn't truly stomach the ill will that Miss Bingley seemed to feel was necessary. "Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!"
"Yes and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it not doing it's office."
"Your picture may be very exact, Louisa," Said Bingley, finally seeming to want to put an end to the discussion – much to Georgiana's relief. "But this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice."
"You observed it, Mr Darcy, I am sure," Mr Darcy turned as would be expected, meeting his sisters eye with a resigned look, as though he had known he couldn't stay out of Miss Bingley's attention for long. "And I am inclined to think that Miss Darcy would never wish to make such an exhibition."
Georgiana felt herself being pulled into the conversation and for a fraction of a second wondered whether or not to meet her brother's gaze in a silent plea to be allowed to steer clear of them. A sudden recollection of his brief mention of the Bennets in his letters before – it was remarkable enough, although her brothers letters were usually detailed enough, he rarely mentioned anyone she didn't know. That had been a pull of its own upon her arrival here.
"I..." She began haltingly – but was barely allowed further, for that would not aid Miss Bingley at all.
"To walk three miles, or four miles or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! What could she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country town indifference to decorum."
"I would like to think that I would walk further were my brother ill..."Georgiana was surprised to find that all her words came out intelligibly, although she knew that she had no chance of speaking any further.
Miss Bingley made a slight humming noise, a small frown marring her forehead. She wasn't allowed to retort or twist Georgiana's words, as the latter feared she might, for Mr Darcy chose that moment to continue.
"You forget, Miss Bingley," His voice was slightly more curt than usual and he barely even looked at the lady in question, "that we, my sister and I, live in the country."
Miss Bingley looked taken aback for a second – but no longer, she shook away Mr Darcy's reply as though it had been little more than a fly, and continued.
"Nonetheless, I am afraid, Mr Darcy," Her words were framed in a loud whisper, "that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes."
Georgiana couldn't help her head from shifting immediately to her brother at such a revelation. She had had wild suspicions that her brother might harbour such admiration of course – it would have been hard for her to have not read between the lines when he had mentioned the many daughters of the Bennet family – but Miss Elizabeth hadn't even attempted to join in any conversation with him or so much as meet his eye, and her brother had done little to rectify that. Georgiana had feared she had been over thinking things. He met her gaze with the smallest of smiles – it was the kind of expression she hadn't seen from him in an age, or so it felt. She had been quite sure that she had ruined any of the friendship they had managed to build up in the past years.
"Not at all," he was deliberate in keeping his face emotionless – Georgiana could only guess he was trying to work Miss Bingley up, instead of letting her antagonise him further. "They were rather brightened by the exercise."
A short pause followed the statement, Miss Bingley quite taken aback and unable to continue and no one else finding it necessary to speak. Georgiana had never quite understood how Miss Bingley could find it so easy to miss all that her brother did to encourage her away from himself.
Mrs Hurst picked up the topic again talking about how sweet the ill sister was – Jane – and then following it up with a great many discussions about her connections. Georgiana didn't find the courage to interrupt a second time, but she couldn't help but wait for her brother to do so instead. Surely they must realise that such a thing hardly mattered to gentlemen such as Mr Bingley and her Brother – or at least it shouldn't. After all, weren't the Bennets gentlemen? That was the impression she had gathered from what they said. Georgiana could hardly see how Miss Bingley – with all her snobbery – could insult them, when she must necessarily fall lower on the normal scales of society.
"If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside," Mr Bingley cried, interrupting his sisters effortlessly. "It would not make them one jot less agreeable." She couldn't help but smile hearing that - it was expressed exactly as Georgiana had found he would always act - exuberantly but with a great deal of kindness beneath it all.
"But it must materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world." Her brother's words, small as they might seem, chilled her most. That he should agree with Miss Bingley – that on its own was a remarkable thing - but about this?
No sooner had they finished their speeches however when they admitted they must call upon their ill guest – Georgiana had plead a headache, or no doubt they would have remained with her. She just wanted to be out of there.
She didn't return to her room though, although she'd have likely been expected too – instead she wandered around until she found herself in the library. She wouldn't say that she loved books, she had always preferred music to reading, but she couldn't have grown up with her brother without having a certain appreciation for books – and she had discovered surprisingly quickly upon her arrival here, that she didn't think she would be able to continue her normal pursuits as much as she might have been accustomed. There would be little opportunity for her to play without the constant worry of disturbing someone – and she had already begun thinking of ways to avoid Mr Bingley's sisters. If that wasn't uncharitable, Georgiana didn't know what was.
She took a couple of moments to search the shelves – there were a good number of course, although nothing compared to the vast library at home. Still, without anyone to advise her on her choice she quickly settled into taking one of her favourites and finding the most comfortable looking chair. She would do whatever she could to draw her mind away from the irritating thoughts that were plaguing her.