This story was inspired by something I read on Quora.

Elizabeth Bennet sat with the females of her family in their dining room, pleased to be once again at home. The week previous had been spent at Netherfield Park, nursing her sister who had taken ill while visiting there. While their host Mr. Bingley had been most gracious and her esteem for him had only increased (along with, she admitted to herself, a hope that she might one day call him her brother), the rest of the company had been vexing. Miss Bingley had taken every opportunity to attempt to disparage her, especially when they were in the presence of Mr. Darcy, who himself had proven to be one of the most confusing and unpleasant men she had ever known.

It was fortunate that Mr. Darcy had eventually decided to leave Netherfield and return to London, as his absence removed Miss Bingley's primary motive for abusing Elizabeth, making it possible for the latter to enjoy the pleasures of being almost entirely ignored by her hostess for a full two days before returning home.

As the Bennet ladies sat, listening to their mother bemoan the fact that Jane could not have stayed at Netherfield just a few days longer, their attention was suddenly drawn to the window, by the sound of a carriage; and they perceived a chaise and four driving up the lawn. It was too early in the morning for visitors, and besides, the equipage did not answer to that of any of their neighbours. An unfamiliar but finely dressed couple emerged from the carriage and approached the house walking rapidly. The ladies of the house quickly returned to their seats and made every effort to appear unaffected until Mrs. Hill ushered the visitors into the room, announcing them as the Earl of Matlock and his lady.

Lady Matlock displayed a gracious smile and began speaking hurriedly:

"Good morning! Are you Mrs. Bennet? . . . . . So very good to meet you, madam. Please forgive our early and unannounced arrival, we were simply so eager to make the acquaintance of your lovely family. Would it be possible for my husband to speak with Mr. Bennet? Can someone take him to him? Thank you so very much.

"Now Mrs. Bennet, I wish to see Miss Elizabeth, which one of your fine daughters is she? . . . . . Ah, Miss Elizabeth! Oh, you are indeed a pretty one! How good it is to meet you! I have heard so many things about what an remarkable young woman you are! . . . . . Yes, truly! Those who have met you praise you to the heavens, my dear! I am all eagerness to get to know you!

"Now, the reason we are here, Mrs. Bennet, is that we wish to invite Miss Elizabeth to visit us at our home in London, so that we can introduce her to our friends and show everyone just how much we like her! I was told that one of her sisters, Jane, might be a good companion for her on the trip? Which one, please, is . . . . . Oh! Another very pretty one! Yes, well, we would love for the two of you to spend some time with us in town. It will be a delightful . . . . . What is that, Mrs. Bennet? . . . . . Not a good time to leave Hertfordshire? . . . . . GENTLEMAN FRIEND!? . . . . . M-M-M-Miss Elizabeth? Y-y-you have a gentleman friend? . . . . . OH! Oh, Miss Jane has a gentleman friend! (Whew!) . . . Oh, do not worry, Miss Jane, you shall not be gone for long. We will send a message to your young man and let him know where you are. What is his name? . . . . . Bingley? Oh, is that Charles Bingley? (Oh, of course, that's how you would have met . . . . .) Yes, we know Mr. Bingley! A delightful boy! And he is courting you, Miss Jane? . . . . . What? Just friends? Oh, but I can see from your blushing how much you like him! . . . . . Now, I know that Bingley is here in Hertfordshire . . . . . the neighboring estate? Excellent! We will call on Mr. Bingley when we leave here and let him know that you will be visiting with us. I am sure it will be no problem at all.

"Oh! Dear husband, what did Mr. Bennet say? . . . . . Wonderful! Mrs. Bennet, please tell your benevolent husband how abundantly grateful I am that he has given his permission. Now, if we can return here on Thursday to collect your two lovely daughters, we will show them every kindness and have them back home in a fortnight. And if you would be so kind, Mrs. Bennet, as to loan us right now one of Miss Elizabeth's dresses and one of Miss Jane's, then we can use those as models to have a couple of gowns made to be ready for them when they arrive, and then we can have more made after they are in town. Thank you so very much, madam.

"Dear, they've told me that Charles Bingley is occupying the neighboring estate, what is the name of it? . . . . . Netherfield Park, all right . . . . . and that we need to particularly inform Mr. Bingley that Miss Jane Bennet is going to be coming to town with her sister . . . . . Yes, exactly, dear.

"Thank you all so much! Please accept our apologies for the brevity of this visit, we will have many more opportunities to spend time together, I have no doubt! We are off to Netherfield now, and we will see you again on Thursday. You girls will have a splendid time, I assure you! Farewell!"


And so it was that three days later, Elizabeth, with Jane by her side, was riding to London under the escort of Lady Matlock. The plans for the promised ball at Netherfield were to be postponed until their return. Prior to their leaving, a cousin of theirs, he who would one day be the inheritor of Longbourn, arrived for a visit, but Elizabeth and Jane were too occupied with preparations for their trip to pay him much notice. Their younger sisters had to suffer more of his company. He had even insisted on accompanying Lydia and Kitty on a walk into Meryton, from which journey they returned bearing news of a new militia officer they had met, who, according to their swooning reports, was the most handsome and charming man alive.

Throughout all of the preparations, Elizabeth could feel nothing but bewilderment as to why such distinguished people had singled her out in such an unusual manner.


Her time in London was no less confusing. She was dressed in magnificent gowns, treated like a princess, and introduced to members of the first circles of society as a friend of the earl. She also made the acquaintance of one of their sons, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who seemed to be an amiable gentleman, but showed a preoccupation with escorting Jane at all social functions. He stayed at her side almost constantly, yet rarely looked directly at her and rarely spoke to her. Elizabeth was puzzled by his behavior until she realized that he may have been given the task of protecting her beautiful sister from male attention, as Lady Matlock had probably promised Mr. Bingley that she would return Jane to him with her heart untouched by any other man.

Lady Matlock was ever friendly and accommodating, but at the same time so overly anxious to ensure Elizabeth's comfort and happiness that Elizabeth felt an underlying self-consciousness most of the time. She had less interaction with the earl, but whenever he would introduce her to new acquaintances, he would sing the praises of her family, calling up any detail he could remember from his ten-minute visit to their home to illustrate the intimacy between the Bennets and the Fitzwilliams. The rest of London society (at least, those whom were chosen to be introduced to her) followed the example of the Matlocks and fawned over her, which only increased her unease. Elizabeth, who prided herself on her courage in the face of intimidation, was at a loss for how to deal with exaggerated praise and deference.

Much to her surprise, she found that the one person with whom she could feel at ease was Mr. Darcy, who was also visiting the earl. He, having all his life dealt with the discomfort that ensues when one is receiving excessive attention from people whom one does not know well, offered his sympathy for her plight. When she was in his company, which was often, she was able to unburden her mind to him in a way that she could not with anyone else (except Jane, of course). He shared with her some of his own past experiences, which not only helped Elizabeth in facing her own situation, but also gave her more understanding of the reasons for his seemingly cold demeanor when in public (including his harsh reaction when Bingley had tried to force an introduction between them in Meryton, for which he sincerely apologized). When they attended parties and gatherings, just seeing Mr. Darcy, even from across the room, was encouraging. And, if she had difficulty escaping from a cloying companion, she needed only to give him a particular look, and he would come to her rescue, claiming her attention for himself. She suspected that people thought they were close to having an understanding between them, and she realized that she did not mind it if they thought so.

She found herself feeling more comfortable with Mr. Darcy each day, more fond of him with each conversation, and more charmed by him with each dance. By the end of the fortnight, her feelings for him had progressed from her previous disdain into understanding, then appreciation, then admiration, and finally, into a growing affection for him. When he asked if she would allow him to court her, she was happy to accept.

And so it was that Elizabeth returned home to Hertfordshire, under the escort of Lady Matlock, with both Jane and Mr. Darcy accompanying her, filled with anticipation as the gentleman prepared to ask her father for permission to pursue her hand, and eager to dance at the Netherfield ball with him as her acknowledged suitor.

It would not be until years later, at Pemberley, in bed, that Mr. Darcy would regale his wife with the story of the conversation that had been the means of uniting them.



Fitzwilliam Darcy, just arrived for an unexpected visit at the home of his uncle and aunt, sat with his favorite cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam.

"How long are you here?", he asked the colonel.

"I leave tomorrow."

"I will need to act tonight, then. I shall have a conversation with your parents, and I will want your assistance."

"What does this pertain to?"

"I am in love."

"No!", the colonel laughed. "I didn't imagine that I would live to see this day! Who is she? Should I try to guess?"

"You would have no hope of guessing it. You do not know her. Her name is Elizabeth Bennet, of Hertfordshire."

"Bennett? Do I know of any prominent family with that name? And in Hertfordshire?"

"Her family is not prominent. Her father's estate is not worthy of mention, and it is entailed away from the next generation, and her mother's family is in trade."

"And this is the woman you have decided to love?"

"I would not say that I decided it. My feelings overcame my attempts to ignore them. When you meet her, you will likely understand."

Col. Fitzwilliam smiled. "So you wish for me to be there when you deliver this news to my mother and father. Am I to be your second when my father calls you out for disgracing the family?"

"Actually, I have a plan in mind which I believe will induce them to be more welcoming of the lady. It will, however, require me to indulge in a bit of deception."

"You, Darcy? You must be quite mad in love."

Mr. Darcy chuckled. "You will hear me say things about myself tonight that you will know to be untrue. And I will want you to support the tale."

"What do you plan to say?"

"I wll not tell you now, for I want you to look authentically surprised when you hear it. But once you do, I believe that you will know what to say."

"Alright. You shall be the commanding officer for this mission, and I will follow your lead."


That evening, after dinner, his aunt began her typical inquiries into his plans: "Darcy, I hope you are to be in town for a while. There are so many people who are eager to see you."

Darcy gave a sad smile. "I am sure there are, Aunt, and I know that when you speak of people who want to see me, you are usually thinking of young ladies," – at this, Lady Matlock smiled bashfully – "but I hope you will not trouble yourself too much in that regard. I have come to realize that that cannot be my future. I shall not marry."

"What do you mean?"

He sighed and wrung his hands. "My feelings . . . my . . . inclinations . . . tend in a different direction . . ." He looked at her meaningfully.

The air was pierced by Lady Matlock's gasp, followed by her ragged whisper – "A molly!* No!"

"I have tried," Darcy continued, his head lowered, "to hide my failings as a man. I've made the visits to the brothels, like so many gentlemen do . . ." – he looked over at Col. Fitzwilliam.

The colonel instantly knew how to play his part in the charade – "Good Lord, Darcy! You always did seem nervous on those excursions! You would sometimes go in the rooms with the ladies, but you never wanted to boast about your conquests afterward. It did seem strange. Did you even try to . . . ?"

"On the first few occasions I tried, but there was no feeling to be found in it and I gave up. After that, I did not even attempt it. I only went in for the sake of appearance."

The colonel schooled his features to look shocked and saddened.

"I know what is expected of me. I am supposed to choose the grandest lady in town and make her my wife, but the thought of . . . the act of . . . producing an heir. I simply cannot."

His aunt gazed at him in horror.

He continued, "There has only ever been one . . . but that would be impossible. I should not even speak of her."

"Of whom?!"

He looked wistfully into the distance. "There is one woman, one whom I met while in Hertfordshire. I do not know what it is about her that kindles a fire within my very soul. I had never had such a feeling for any other - any other woman, that is. When I was in her presence, everything within me longed to sweep her into my arms, to touch her, to . . ." He sighed. "It was all I could do to refrain from throwing myself at her feet and begging her to be mine. But I could never shame the family so. I must forget her. Georgiana will be the one to bring an heir to Pemberley."

Lady Matlock was nearly frantic. "What do you mean by shame? Is she a servant? A harlot?"

"No. She is perfectly respectable, a gentleman's daughter, beautiful, very well bred, and every bit a lady. But their family has no fortune, she has hardly any dowry, she has relations in trade."

"It doesn't matter! Not at all!"

"But Aunt, if she is the only woman who affects me so, is that not a sign that my affinity for women is a feeble one?"

"No! It is a sign of true love! Your soul is so bound to her that the thought of any other woman is abhorrent! You MUST have her!"

"But it would be a degradation to our family."

"Nonsense! You are a gentleman and she is a gentleman's daughter. You are equals. She is perfectly acceptable and I will not allow anyone to say that she is not!" Lady Matlock paused in thought. "I need to make sure that she does not suffer any censure from the Ton . . . We will bring her here and introduce her to society ourselves, showing our full acceptance and admiration for her. What's the girl's name?"

"Elizabeth Bennet, of Longbourn."

"And you say that she is well-mannered."

"Very much so, but some of her family members are rather crude."

"Hang the family! If she can present herself well that is all that is required. Richard, we will help you arrange to stay with us a bit longer. We need the entire family's cooperation for this endeavor." She paused again, rubbing her chin. "We must all take care not to treat her as an inferior. And Darcy, you will not propose to her right away. If she is too quickly announced as your betrothed, people will think that she tricked you or compromised you. You will be seen wooing her, gradually becoming more familiar. She is such a prize that Fitzwilliam Darcy is taking pains to try to win her favor. Everyone must assume that attitude toward her. Am I understood?"

All of the men assented.

"Darcy, you say that she has some unfortunate relatives. Is there anyone in her family that she can bring with her who would make a good impression?"

"Her elder sister, Jane."

"A sister. Perfect. You stay here. Your uncle and I will go to Hertfordshire in the morning and speak to her. I intend to have all of this resolved before the month is out."

"Do you think that you will be able to convince Aunt Catherine that . . ."

"Hang Catherine!", his uncle and aunt said in unison. "I am not giving her another thought," his aunt declared. "Have no worries, Darcy. Happiness will be yours."

Lady Matlock took to her room to make plans and guest lists before retiring. The earl instructed his staff to ready a carriage. Col. Fitzwilliam laughed heartily and praised his cousin's inventiveness once they were alone again.

At the first light of morning, the earl and his wife set out with all haste for Longbourn, Hertfordshire.

* Molly - Regency slang for a homosexual male.

Thanks, everybody, for the reviews and faves. Thank you, especially, to the reviewer who pointed out that in one spot I had accidentally called the colonel the earl's nephew instead of his son.

A few people said that they would love to see what reactions people had when they found out the truth. Mrs. Darcy thought it was hilarious when her husband told her about it. And he never confessed the truth to his aunt and uncle. He wasn't worried about any rumors spreading because he knew that they would both be determined to take that secret to their graves. (In fact, maybe it was only after they had died that he told Lizzy the story.)

And one person asked about the Quora post that inspired this story, so I may as well tell it to everybody. The Quora post came from a young lady who lived in India, whose parents wanted to make an arranged marriage for her, even though she was in love with a totally different guy. She told her parents that she liked girls instead of boys, but that there was this ONE boy who really turned her on. And it worked; her parents let her marry her boyfriend.