Where to even begin... Apologies for this update taking so long! Jeez, almost six months I suppose... Life got very hectic, very quickly, and I found I just didn't have the time or energy to write. But, I'm back for the next month at least! I'll hopefully be updating regularly, maybe twice a week if I can manage. Maybe more, maybe less, but I'll just see where it takes me.
Hopefully you guys enjoy this chapter, I know it may be a little dull, but I promise there is more to come! Just have to build the story, and get back into the mindset to write...
Much to Elizabeth's relief, Mrs Bennet had the mind to allow her daughters the use of the carriage for their journey to Netherfield. Though the trip was no more than five miles - a mere stroll on the best of days - Elizabeth knew here sister to still be recovering, and did not wish for her to exert herself so soon after her illness, lest they risk another extended stay. The ride was spent in contemplative silence, with the companions moving along two vastly different lines of thought; while one brought pleasure, the other brought a feeling akin to distain. Had she not been requested to join by her own sister, Elizabeth would have quite happily remained at Longbourn with a book, rather than be in the company of those she would much rather forget.
"Lizzy?" Jane softly enquired, noticing a small scowl growing upon her sister's face, "Is everything alright? You look rather put out."
"Hm?" Elizabeth looked up to find her sister watching her intently, and instantly wished she had thought to school her expression. "Yes, yes I'm fine, just a little tired. I found Mama's nerves this morning a little exhausting, that is all." While not entirely accurate, the statement was, at least, laced with some truth. Her mother's antics were rather heightened that morning, with the 'great honour' the sisters had been offered playing in her mind. It was inescapable.
"Indeed, though I think I know where your thoughts actually lay. Truly Lizzy, you could have declined this evening. I would have understood." Jane offered a small, sad smile.
"If it brings you happiness Jane," Elizabeth said, grabbing her sister's hand and squeezing it in her own, "I will endeavour to be on my best behaviour, and enjoy every second."
Upon their arrival, Jane was greeted with what appeared to be genuine happiness, as she exited the carriage first, blocking Elizabeth from their view. The sentiment, however, was lost on the latter, as Miss Bingley could not help but pinch her lips when she removed herself from the carriage, offered a cold curtsey, and mumbled what may pass as a polite greeting somewhere. The party of four moved quickly into the house, as the storms that have been threatening since the evening after the ball finally made good on their promise, and let its tears out in earnest. Miss Bingley immediately attached herself to Jane, the pair leading the way towards the parlour, leaving Mrs Hurst and Elizabeth to bring up the rear. Barely three words were spoken by the two, instead both tried to keep up with the conversation being held by their companions rather than engage in their own until all were seated by a roaring fire.
"Pray tell us," Miss Bingley started, arranging her skirts neatly, "what might a lady do in this part of the country to satisfy an ever-growing boredom?"
Jane was quick to respond, listing a variety of attractions to be found in Merryton and its surrounds, and suggested they should attend a select few that seemed to be of interest together.
"And there is a most delightful gallery that I believe, if I do not overstep, you may find some interest in. While the pieces are not of London origin, they are rather beautiful." Jane finished
Mrs Hurst had just finished appraising the plan when Elizabeth chimed in.
"While those attractions are delightful, the area is known for some great many spectacles of nature. Indeed, there are many walks that one should take whilst in the region. They should not be missed. I believe Oakham mou-"
Before Elizabeth could finish, Miss Bingley cut her off short, exclaiming that they should do no such thing whilst the weather was so poorly. "Surely you cannot believe we should risk any finery, even a hem, for the sake of an insignificant view?"
Caroline said it in such a way that most would believe her to be joking, though the pointed stare and obvious dig at Elizabeth's own state upon arriving to care for her sister was enough to say otherwise. Elizabeth remained silent for a large portion of the evening following this, only speaking when specifically asked for her opinion, and choosing not to listen to the majority of the conversation. That is until Jane enquired after Mr. Bingley.
"Do you expect him to be long from the country?" She sipped at her tea, remaining as casual as ever.
"I am not so certain." replied Caroline, looking up from her own tea to smile at her companion, "While he did say he would only be gone for 10 days, I very much doubt he will be back within this timeframe."
"Indeed? I cannot imagine he would wish to stray from his family for too long?"
"Well, London is certainly more agreeable than the country, excluding your company of course. There is much distraction, and many acquaintances to be renewed whilst he is there. Louisa dear, what was the name of that young lady we met last season?"
Mrs Hurst looked thoughtful for a moment, then lit up as she noted that the girl's name was Grace Dalton.
"Ah yes of course! Miss Dalton was lovely little thing, not as lovely as Miss Georgiana Darcy, but I believe the two of you would like her. Very polite and so accomplished!" Caroline beamed. Elizabeth winced at the reference to a particular conversation that took place in this very room, though one notable character was missing.
"Oh." Jane sipped at her tea once again.
"I believe our brother was to call in on the family. He met her father at business meeting recently, and the elder took quite a liking to him almost immediately. I do believe Charles may see him as a father figure! And to be sure," she continued without so much as a heartbeat, "the daughter would be an excellent creature to get to know on a more, intimate, level." Caroline eyed Jane, though could not see any particular change aside from what may be a slight blush, though that may be the proximity to the fire. Her sister, however, was not equally affected, in fact she shifted rather uncomfortably.
"Yes indeed!" Louisa spoke up, seeing where her sister was going. "Might I let the two of you in on a secret?" She spoke to Jane and Elizabeth, but looked to her sister, a sly smile playing on her lips out of sight of the others. Caroline waved her sister on, leaning back slightly in her chair, her eyes shining wickedly. Yes, this would do nicely she thought as she watched on.