The Case Study

Charlotte Lucas was, at seven and twenty, resigned to the knowledge that she would live out the rest of her years an old maid. With claims to neither beauty nor wealth, she had no such hopes of living a life of romance or excitement. Indeed, to be provided for by a generous relation was the ambition that she could realistically have.

But that was neither here nor there, and dwelling on her future was, to Charlotte, as pointless as counting the stars. Which was perhaps why she was so keen on detecting the presence of both romance and excitement in the people that surrounded her—especially those whom she had a vested interest in. Elizabeth Bennet, being her particular friend for many a year, fell into that category. Her vested interest being the future happiness and stability of her dear friend.

In fact, on the night of the Meryton ball, Charlotte had her interests piqued as she saw the reaction of one of Meryton's gentlemen visitors to her friend. The other gentleman, Mr. Bingley, made it no secret how much he admired Jane Bennet. But Mr. Darcy with his silence and serious mein, was more subtle. Subtle but, at least to Charlotte, still discernible.

Her suspicions were aroused. He most certainly was attracted to Elizabeth. Charlotte was not a betting woman, but were she one, she would stake her monthly allowance on it. And so she had employed her keen skills of observation on that said gentleman. Other social gatherings that followed where both he and Elizabeth were in attendance gave Charlotte ample opportunity for further study. Her friend was oblivious to the gentleman's feelings, she knew. In truth, she disliked the man. And for good reason.

"Not handsome enough to tempt me!" She recalled as Elizabeth lowered her tone in mocking imitation of Mr. Darcy.

They had laughed then, but Charlotte knew that Elizabeth's pride had been mortified by the comment and by his refusal to dance with her. They had passed it of as something to be diverted about, but secretly Charlotte had begun to analyze the contradictions of the gentleman's words and her observations. It was very unfortunate that Mr. Darcy said the words and that her friend had heard them, for Charlotte also knew that before her dislike of him had begun, her friend saw the gentleman as handsome, even blushing as she had said the words. Elizabeth was attracted to him, she was sure. Charlotte saw the possibilities, the future that could be her friend's had the incident not altered her opinion of him.

So serious had she become in her endeavor, that on one afternoon a few days before the Netherfield ball, she had directly made a detailed list of all her observations and deductions. Just as she was concluding her notes, the sound of other people entering the drawing room had her quickly tucking the list between the pages of the letter she received from her cousin.

"Good afternoon, Charlotte. We are for Meryton after this call. But we have come to talk more about the upcoming ball with our dear friends first. Oh, what a time we shall have!" Mrs. Bennet sat down on the settee. Her two youngest daughters who arrived with her, giggled in excitement as they procured drawings of dress designs and of hair ornaments, telling her of their intention to purchase similar laces and ornaments.

Half an hour passed in such a way until Charlotte asked if Elizabeth was home, for she dearly wanted to see how her friend would react once hinted with the idea that she had an admirer in Mr. Darcy. The study she had done was very detailed, bordering on scientific in its approach. Her friend would laugh at it first, then she would find ways to negate each case, she was sure. But Charlotte had no intention of showing it to her yet. She merely wanted to plant a seed. For though she knew that the thought had never entered Elizabeth's mind, it was indeed Charlotte's opinion that marriage to Mr. Darcy would be a very good thing for her, not just in terms of security, but in terms of happiness.

"Oh, you know Lizzy!" Lydia said with a flip of her hand. "She left even before we did to go on one of her walks. I suspect we shall arrive home before she does!"

When their guests left, Charlotte gathered the pieces of parchment and tucked them in a book. She headed out with every intention of seeking her friend. She walked past her family's property, crossed the Meryton road and entered the edge of Meryton Wood. Choosing a path that she knew Elizabeth frequented, for it was one that traversed Longbourn lands, Charlotte walked with her head full of thoughts on how she should broach the topic with her friend. She pulled out the list she made and was going through each entry as she walked. So intent was she in her list that she neglected to realize where she was. This part of the path took a sharp turn. Obscured by a thick growth of trees, it was hard to see anyone coming from behind the turn. But had she been paying attention, Charlotte would surely have heard the masculine voices that she was about to meet. As it was, without any consciousness of the impending collision, Charlotte plodded ahead and crashed straight into Charles Bingley. The gentleman, acting quickly, grabbed her by the shoulders and steadied her as she fought to catch her balance. Book and parchment landed on the ground as a stunned Charlotte blinked in equal parts surprise and embarrassment.

"Miss Lucas!" Bingley gasped, worry etched on his features. "I am dreadfully sorry! I should have employed more caution at the turn."

Charlotte felt her face heat. She shook her head as she placed her hand on her chest, attempting to steady her drumming heart.

"No, 'tis I who was not present in mind. I ask your pardon, sir, I was distracted from reading a-a letter."

She took a steadying breath and noticed with no little alarm that Mr. Darcy stood next to his friend, a look of concern on his countenance.

"Are you well, madam?" The second gentleman inquired of her.

"No—yes! Indeed, just a little out of breath. But I am better now, I thank you, Mr. Darcy."

At this, she stole a quick look at the ground, then felt herself blush again as she saw the pieces of parchment scattered on the ground. Following her gaze, both gentlemen bent to pick up her belongings. Charlotte Lucas considered herself an even-tempered, level-headed person, not easily rattled nor easily worried. But at that moment she felt akin to a Mrs. Bennet suffering from her poor nerves. Time seemed to still as she watched Mr. Bingley—and specifically Mr. Darcy—gather the items from the ground.

With a smile from one and a nod from the other, the book and the pieces of parchment were handed back to her without incident. Charlotte secretly sighed with relief.

"I thank you, sirs. I-I must be off. I bid you both a pleasant day."

And without further ado, she walked past them, seeming to the gentlemen a lady in a great hurry.

Darcy and Bingley looked at each other.

"Did Miss Lucas seem alright to you, Darcy?" Bingley turned to watch her retreating form. "I truly hope that I did not injure her."

Darcy too turned to watch the lady.

"She seemed startled, a normal outcome from the small accident."

"I hope that was all, she seemed so eager to leave."

"Well, perhaps she was embarrassed. A normal feminine reaction as well." Darcy paused to consider. "She walked well enough, I think. I did not notice any injury."

"No, neither did I." Bingley shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps we shall call on Lucas Lodge in the morrow and ask after her health."

They turned to the direction where their horses were tied, left to graze as they themselves had sought the nearby stream for a drink of water only moments ago.

"Shall we head back?" Bingley asked.

As Darcy nodded to his friend, a small movement caught his eye. A breeze drifted at the edge of the wood, fluttering grass and leaves. A piece of parchment caught in the undergrowth by the side of the path fought for release. Bingley walked ahead as Darcy bent down to retrieve it. From what had occurred earlier, he thought it safe to assume that it was part of Miss Lucas' correspondence. He would return it to her upon their call the next day, he thought. As he was folding it, letters flashed, as if emphasized, in front of his eyes. They spelled his name. His eyebrows rose. He noticed as well that indeed, it was not a letter. It was a list of sorts, with the heading bearing his name. Beyond curious as to why Miss Lucas would have such a document, Darcy forgot the proper gentlemanly behavior and completely unfolded the parchment, ready to read it.

A Case Study: Mr. Darcy Harbors Romantic Feelings Towards Elizabeth Bennet

His shock had he been attacked by a bull was no different. He hid the document behind him as if fearing that Bingley would suddenly wrest it from his hands.

The other man sensing that his friend had been left behind, stopped and turned. The look on Darcy's face confused him. His friend looked…guilty.

"Darce? Is something the matter?"

"No, I was just–I just recalled that I neglected to finish an urgent correspondence."

"Well, we best be off then."

Darcy nodded again, and this time started towards their horses, walking ahead of Bingley in his haste.

Bingley watched his friend, then shaking his head, he wondered if that part of Meryton wood had forest nymphs or spirits that delighted in confusing passersby.


Darcy took the Netherfield staircase two steps at a time as he ascended to his chambers. Once inside, he locked the door and took off his coat. From its pocket, he pulled out the piece of parchment. He moved to the window and with a deep breath, unfolded the document.

A Case Study: Mr. Darcy Harbors Romantic Feelings Towards Elizabeth Bennet

He gulped. Leaning closer, he read it.

Tuesday, 15th of October. The Meryton Assembly.

1. This author personally saw that the subject was stunned by E.B.'s beauty. Upon his first seeing her, he stared (lingeringly) at E.B.

2. Upon introduction, the subject appeared nonchalant, but this author has personally observed as well his frequent gazes on E.B.

Matter of Contention

1. The subject was overheard by E.B. herself to declare that he refuses to dance with her for the reason that he finds her not handsome enough (Lizzy of course has no cordial feelings towards him after this incident).

2. This author believes this to be a stratagem to disguise subject's attraction to E.B., for his words are in direct contradiction to his observed actions.

Tuesday, 29th of October. Lucas Lodge.

1. The subject was observed by E.B. herself to be listening to her conversations with others.

2. This author performed an experiment of sorts by provoking E.B. to question the subject regarding his actions. He replied to E.B. in a teasing way (though this went unnoticed by E.B. as she continues to dislike him).

3. Further provocations from this author resulted in E.B. performing in the pianoforte. As expected, subject was absorbed in watching E.B.

4. It is this author's belief that the subject enjoys E.B.'s playful manner and somehow finds her impertinent ways to be charming.

5. The subject was observed to have asked E.B. to dance. Though it was more a form of coercion by this author's father, the subject showed a sincerity in the request. E.B. unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, declined. I must therefore conclude that the subject does not truly think E.B. merely tolerable, in fact affirming my early suspicions, is very attracted to her.

6. This author observed a most curious incident after the above mentioned. The subject was seen to be conversing with Miss Bingley, both appear to be watching E.B.. By the lady's shocked look, I can only infer that the subject has shared with her some of his thoughts regarding E.B.

Saturday, 16th of November. Longbourn.

1. This author called on the newly returned Bennet sisters (Jane looking fully recovered from her illness) from their stay at Netherfield Park. My visit revealed several curious incidents that only solidify my assertions.

2. As narrated by E.B., the subject said very little upon her unusual arrival to ask after her sick sister. She believes the subject holds her in contempt for her independent ways. This author believes otherwise, the subject was simply rendered speechless by her (for I have been E.B.'s frequent walking companion and can testify that the exercise truly becomes her).

3. As narrated by E.B., during Jane's confinement, she spent some evenings in the group's company and described how she and the subject often engaged in lengthy debates and arguments. It is this author's previous observation from a character study of the subject that he does not engage in lengthy conversations—save with people from his own group (Lizzy seems to be the exception to this rule).

4. E.B. shares her observation of how frequently the subject's eyes were fixed on her. And this author quotes, "I hardly knew how to suppose that I could be an object of admiration to so great a man; and yet that he should look at me because he disliked me, was still more strange."

5. The subject asked E.B. to dance yet again, and still true to her promise to her mother, she refused him yet again.

6. E.B. tells of another conversation with the subject where they find themselves assigning character defects to the other. She accuses him of hating everybody. He in turn accuses her of willfully misunderstanding people. This author believes the subject refers to E.B. herself willfully misunderstanding him.

6. The subject spent half-an-hour alone with E.B., completely ignoring her. This author laughed at the absurdity of this. Could the subject be afraid of what confidences he might betray when left alone with her, hence his reason for refusing to speak to her? It is perhaps so.

Conclusion

It is this author's conclusion that accounting for all the said instances, it is justified to state that the subject harbors romantic feelings for Elizabeth Bennet. That he should be seeming to deny said feelings rather than openly pursuing them (as his friend is doing with Jane) suggests an internal struggle. The subject has two minds about his feelings for E.B. I infer, once again, from what this author knows about the subject. He hesitates due to E.B.'s lack of status or fortune.

Personal Reflections

Lizzy is prejudiced against Mr. Darcy for he has mortified her pride by declaring her merely tolerable. Any woman (even I whom the adjective suits) who would be described as such, shall react in much the same way I am sure. A shame, for upon first seeing him, she had truly admired his person (I recall that Lizzy blushed when I teased her about it). I fear this prejudice may hamper her seeing Mr. Darcy as a suitor.

Mr. Darcy's pride might prevent him from courting Lizzy. Although I detect that he is half in love with her already, I believe he considers it his duty to marry well. From a pecuniary point of view this reasoning stands, yet I can not help but think that he has all the wealth and status that any one could possibly want, why then is there a need to add more? Truly, I see him only wanting cheer—perhaps happiness.

I believe that felicity in marriage is purely by chance, yet I also can not help but see that both their dispositions will suit the other, therefore giving them a bigger chance at marital felicity. Lizzy and her playful ways will lighten Mr. Darcy's austerity. Her impertinence dissolves any awe towards him that others might feel, therefore seeing and treating him merely as himself (and not the representation of Pemberley). His intelligence would suit Lizzy (for she is by half more clever than any gentleman in Meryton, I am convinced 'tis the reason why none of them have caught her fancy). His knowledge of the world would supplement Lizzy's provincial upbringing. He is a gentleman, she a gentleman's daughter. I have no doubt that they shall suit. 'Tis only a matter of overcoming his pride and her prejudice.

Darcy's heart beat fast. He could not believe what he had just read. He had been found. By no less than Elizabeth Bennet's particular friend! It was both impressive and alarming how accurate Miss Lucas had read him. Did Elizabeth know? Had Miss Lucas shared her suspicions with her? Had she been on her way to Longbourn to show her this case study when he and Bingley met her? What if she was doing just that at this particular moment? Darcy groaned. But a more nagging intelligence obtained from Miss Lucas' list floated in his mind; Elizabeth Bennet disliked him. It was also stated that in the beginning she admired his person, that, however, was no longer relevant now. He felt like he had been given a physical blow. To realize that the object of his affections disliked him was shattering. What a conceited fool he had been to think that she received his attentions with joy. To be sure, he had known that she was unlike any other female of his acquaintance, so why then did he presume her to act as they would?

He hesitates due to E.B.'s lack of status or fortune.

In this one thing Miss Lucas was wrong. It was not Elizabeth's lack of fortune that was holding him back, it was her relations. Darcy thought deeply. He loosened his cravat and opened the window. Could the love of one woman—he shook his head, again realizing his own conceited presumption—be sufficient an inducement to suffer her family? His feelings for Elizabeth Bennet had both thrilled and tortured him. To have met such a woman in such a backward town! Miss Bingley had been cruel in her estimations of Meryton, more so of the Bennet Family. He sighed. Perhaps it had not been wise of him to praise Elizabeth Bennet in her presence, for surely it had borne at least some of Miss Bingley's spite towards the other lady. In fact, his actions with regards to Elizabeth Bennet had quite surprised him. He gravitated towards her; her fine, intelligent eyes, her luminous smile, her pleasing figure, all had been the initial pull. But when he discovered the brilliancy of her mind, Darcy had been lost. So lost indeed that it had been too late to realize the dangers of what he had got himself into.

He rubbed a hand across his forehead. Miss Lucas believed that they would suit, he only had to overcome his pride and she her prejudice. Darcy's mind was in a whirl. What was he to do? Could he risk his heart pursuing a woman who had an admitted dislike towards him? And if she did accept him, could he in turn treat her family with the respect that was due his wife? Darcy fervently wished that he could pour his thoughts out to another soul. But he could never be at ease about speaking the troubles of his heart. Even his closest friends, Bingley, nor his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam had ever been privy to his innermost thoughts.

There was Charlotte Lucas. She already knew. He braced his hands on the window ledge. They were to call on her the next day, perhaps he could—of course not! Of what was he thinking! To open his heart up to a stranger—for though they were acquainted he felt her a stranger still—was not something he did. And yet–and yet could he live with himself if he were to do nothing? What if Elizabeth Bennet truly was his future? At that moment it certainly felt that way.

Darcy straightened, he was suddenly filled with a daring kind of courage. There was only one way to find out. He fervently hoped that he would not make a fool of himself, or if he did, he hoped it would be worth it.


A/N:

Hello! As most of my stories go, this one came from nowhere and just popped into my head. Charlotte Lucas, the studier of characters! I actually had planned to start something else, but Charlotte was insistent on being heard. ;D

This story begins in the days before Wickham makes his appearance. I had also initially intended for it to be a one-shot, but I felt the story wouldn't be done justice if it were so short. As it is, I hope you like it. Please let me know what you think!

Belated Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

P.S.

A quick research shows that case studies were started to be in use only by 1829, please forgive me for hastening the method!