Hi, folks. I am horribly sorry that this has taken me so long, but life is just horribly crazy, what with finishing up junior year and trying to get noticed by colleges... I just haven't had any time. I hope you forgive me.
This chapter was going to be longer and go back to Longbourn (you'll see what I mean) but I figured you guys would want to know that I hadn't died.
The Bennet household was a scene of absolute chaos. Usually the madness was confined to whatever room Mrs. Bennet, the now absent Lydia, or Kitty was inhabiting at the time, but today it had spread throughout the house. Fabrics were draped over ever piece of available furniture, feet pattered out a quick tattoo up and down the stairs as they fulfilled Mrs. Bennet's shrill directions, and exhausted daughters were draped over the nearest object that would support their weight in the hopes of catching a brief rest before being summoned to run another errand.
On such a day as this one, even the solitude of Mr. Bennet's barricaded library was broken. The steady stream of figures rushing past had drawn his eye from the book he was attempting to read. Even with the door shut, the peace usually offered by this room was gone, for Mrs. Bennet's voice had risen to such a volume and a pitch that it easily traveled through the walls and the door. In addition, Mr. Bennet was now being involved in the affairs of the family. At one time, if he retreated into his study, he was left undisturbed. Now, with a double wedding looming, that tradition had been flung out the window.
"Of course she sends the silliest ones to pester me with questions," Mr. Bennet grumbled, shutting the door as his second youngest daughter, Kitty, darted down the hallway, back to the parlor and her mother. "If I am to be constantly disturbed by rapping at the door, let it least be Lizzy or sensible Jane waiting on the other side to ask me about how much I am willing to spend on tablecloths." He gave a sharp snort. "Tablecloths! Dresses I can understand. Possibly even flowers. But tablecloths?"
"Hurry, girls, my nerves fraying from your delay! Lord knows I cannot take much more worry! Jane! Jane, where are you? Jane!"
Mr. Bennet winced as his wife's shrill cries pierced his ears and as pairs of gently shod feet, normally used to sedate pacing, thundered past. It was simply too much. Determined to find some peace, he called for the carriage to be prepared and strode briskly from his study to the front door, snatching up his book and shrugging on his grey overcoat as he passed through the hallways. He managed to nearly avoid being bowled over by his normally serene eldest daughter as she hurried to do her mother's bidding.
"Jane," he said, catching her arm as she slipped by, "do tell Mrs. Bennet that I've taken the carriage for the day. "I fear 'my nerves are all a-flutter,'" he added, waving his hands distractedly, mimicking his wife's mannerisms, "and I must have some peace and quiet. Should you need me, I will be imposing on my future sons-in-law."
It was an anxious Mr. Bingley who hurried through the halls of Netherfield that afternoon upon being informed by his that his beloved's father had come to visit and was at that very moment sitting quietly in the drawing room. On his way, he blew past the library, catching the attention of the only man who ever used the Netherfield library. Startled by his friend's agitation, Mr. Darcy set his book down on a side table and curiously followed at a more sedate pace, stopping just outside the doors to the drawing room.
"I'm delighted to see you, sir." Bingley rushed through the words, anxious to dispense with the formalities. "There isn't anything wrong, is there? Ja-," he checked himself, "Miss Bennet is well?"
Mr. Bennet? Here? Darcy frowned. Hang Jane! What about Lizzy? He quickly stepped into the drawing room, nodding to his friend, whose normally smiling face was anxious.
"Oh, Jane is fine," Mr. Bennet replied. "Lizzy is too," he quickly added, catching site of the new arrival and anticipating Mr. Darcy's query. He had seen the flicker of fear cross the other man's face before his features returned to their normal, stoic expression. "No, I am afraid that I have come here simply to intrude upon you to satisfy my own selfish wishes. My house has been consumed by the wedding and I cannot get any peace with Mrs. Bennet constantly squawking. Since as how you gentleman are the cause of the uproar, I have come to encroach upon you and beg the use of your library."
"Of course, of course," Bingley quickly replied, waving his hand dismissively. His fears calmed, his normal good humor had returned and with it came his desire to satisfy anyone. "You may certainly use the library. No one goes in there anyways. Would do it some good to be used."
"Well, except Darcy, here," he amended, turning to acknowledge his friend. "But I'm sure he won't mind, will you, Darcy?"
The other man bowed.
"Even if I have an objection, I would not voice it for fear of Mr. Bennet withdrawing his consent for my marriage," he remarked dryly.
Mr. Bennet snorted.
"And be forced to listen to even more squawking about how I have ruined my daughters forever and how I shall drive my wife to an early grave? As much as I shall miss my Lizzy, I fear that it is too late to reclaim her. Besides, she is so headstrong she might run away from Longbourn and go to Pemberly! But at least I know you would do the honorable thing by my daughter!"
There was silence as the three men recalled the unwelcome circumstances of the last marriage.
Mr. Bennet was the first to speak.
"Mr. Darcy, I still feel-"
"Do not, sir," Darcy replied abruptly. "The fault was my own and I have remedied it. You have given me a priceless treasure and the only other request you could grant is not to speak of it again." Mr. Bennet inclined his head in acknowledgement.
Bingley cleared his throat awkwardly.
"Yes, well, capital, thank you, Darcy, you're a great sport. You shall have the library, Mr. Bennet. But, sir, wouldn't you rather go shooting? I have some fine land and we have plenty of guns and more than enough birds; I am sure we could find a model to your liking if you would wish-"
"I'm afraid I am not much of a sportsman, Mr. Bingley," Mr. Bennet remarked dryly. "Hence the reason my wife was so eager to have you shoot on our property."
Bingley's face fell.
Darcy looked over at his friend, a small smile tugging at his lips. Much to his friend's amazement, Darcy was not much of a sportsman either, preferring to spend time reading in the library. As a result, the other man was often restless and it was clear he had been looking for someone to accompany him outdoors. But it appeared that his new guest would be as boring as his old.
"Well, let's see about that library, then," Bingley said in a more subdued tone. "So, tell me. Is it really so bad over there? At Longbourn, I mean?" Unable to be in low spirits for long, his voice had once again risen to its usual enthusiastic tone by the end of his question.
Mr. Bennet chuckled as he levered himself off the couch. "So bad? Mr. Bingley, you have no idea. Poor Lizzy! Poor Jane! I'm sure they envy me my escape. Why, when I left, Mrs. Bennet..."
As always, reviews are very welcome! Thanks again for not killing me!