AN: Hello, and welcome to my story. I'm trying to stick to the story fairly closely, and stick to the character's personalities as much as I can, with a few changes in the plot. If anyone is disappointed in my doing (or not doing) this, please tell me, but also give me suggestions on how to improve. And if you like it, of course I'd love to hear from you. Thanks!
Of course, I do not believe that any variation on Pride and Prejudice can be better that Miss Austen's, and it is of course hers. I'm just borrowing the characters and plot and playing with them.
Mrs. Bennet was exuberant in her speech as she conveyed the latest on-dit to her disinterested husband. The gentleman in question was attempting to read his newspaper, a usually peaceful practice, in which he could escape – albeit temporarily – from the insanity that characterized life in his house. With five daughters between the ages of fifteen and one-and-twenty, it is no wonder he valued his time reading his newspaper. It offered him the opportunity to free himself from the amusing yet tiring observance of the females. Today, however, it was not to be.
"Netherfield Hall has been let to a gentleman of good fortune, a Mr. Bingley. He has four or five thousand a year. But it is his friend, a man from Derbyshire by the name of Mr. Darcy, who shall make an excellent husband for one of our girls. Perhaps Bingley will do for another of them, but Jane or perhaps Lydia will certainly catch the eye of such a man as Mr. Darcy," she prattled on, referring to her eldest and her youngest girls, respectively. "Jane is so kind and good, and Lydia is so cheerful and buoyant in her temperament that I am certain he shall take to one of them in no time at all."
"And Lizzy?" asked her husband. "Lizzy's quick wit and keen intellect may just as well catch his fancy."
"Unless by 'quick wit and keen intellect' you mean 'sharp tongue and acerbic personality', then I cannot imagine what you mean, Mr. Bennet. No, I fear that Elizabeth will not be the means by which this family is saved from certain destitution upon your death, husband. I still cannot comprehend the audacity of someone to entail this house to that mean man, Mr. Collins." The woman rose from her chair and moved to the door of the room. "Oh my nerves! I cannot bear this, it is insupportable! But I shall not allow myself to think of it. In Mr. Darcy, we have hope. Now, before I am overtaken by my nerves, I must speak with Hill regarding this evening's dinner." The woman quit the room, feeling rather diminished in her spirit.
Mr. Bennet, on the other hand, was rather increased in his. He knew already that the entire family would be meeting the newcomers to their neighborhood in a week's time, at the ball that was being hosted by Sir and Lady Lucas. Mr. Bennet had called upon Mr. Bingley yesterday morning and was expecting a return visit from the gentleman, together with the other gentlemen in his house, in several days' time.
Meeting the eligible Mr. Bingley had been rather amusing. Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly pleasant, a good sort of fellow that Mr. Bennet felt would not soon bore or irritate him. He was quick to offer conversation and wine, which further ingratiated Mr. Bennet to him. His countenance was open and honest, which the observer in Mr. Bennet found rather disappointing, but which the potential father-in-law in Mr. Bennet found entirely agreeable.
Meeting the oh-so-eligible Mr. Darcy had been not so amusing, but just as informative and interesting. Mr. Darcy, poor man, appeared as though he had the weight of the world upon his broad shoulders. What Mr. Bennet observed, however, was that it appeared that he would be the man to bear that weight with dignity. There was a sturdiness to his brow and a determination about his mouth that might appear to be haughtiness, but Mr. Bennet in fact believed differently. He also believed firmly that the man would be a trustworthy and good son-in-law, were the occasion ever to arise.
Finally, meeting the not-so-eligible Mr. Hurst, the brother-in-law of Mr. Bingley, had been something of a bore. Two minutes into the interview and the man's eyes drooped. One minute after that and his head followed suit. Not five minutes after the gentlemen had all been seated in the room and Mr. Hurst was snoring.
Mr. Bennet's chuckle rang throughout the room as he returned to his paper.
In another room of the house, the two eldest of the sisters were sitting together, adding trim to their bonnets and chatting happily.
"Do you truly believe that a gentleman such as Mr. Bingley or Mr. Darcy would ever marry one of us?" asked Jane, the elder sister.
"One of us, yes," answered Elizabeth, the second child, firmly. "And only one of us. Your beauty and kind spirit is the only thing that would ever induce a man of their station to lower himself to marrying a woman of ours." A self-deprecating laugh escaped her lips and she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper and leaned toward her sister. "But please, make no mention of what I said to Mama. She would no doubt redouble her efforts if she believed that even I believed that Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley would wed you. And we both must acknowledge that her methods of matchmaking leave much to be desired. Most importantly, decorum." Another laugh graced her lips as she returned to the ribbon which she was sewing to the brim of her bonnet.
"I suppose," murmured Jane. "But really, Lizzy, your beauty is not far behind mine. Your figure may be slimmer than is fashionable and your constant exposure to the elements in your walks does nothing to aid your skin, but there is nothing ugly or distasteful about your appearance. Well, aside from your dress. But then, I suffer from the same difficulty of not being able to purchase the latest fashion."
Elizabeth looked up at her sister from the bonnet on her lap and smiled gently. Jane was a good girl, in every sense of the word. She seldom voiced a complaint and was always willing to aid in anything that was needed. Of course she would attempt to point out Elizabeth's more attractive qualities. Elizabeth appreciated her sister's desire to comfort her, even if that comfort was unneeded.
"You are right, Jane." Still, never one to remain serious for too terribly long, Elizabeth continued, "But it is well known, as Mama has repeatedly asserted both to our family and to the entire neighborhood, that you are the belle of the county. And I applaud you for it." With a small smirk, she returned to her bonnet.
"Elizabeth, I cannot imagine how we are sisters. We are so little in common that I should not believe it had not Mama and Papa told us. I was too young, after all, upon your arrival to ever recall it."
"Yes, but we know that you are theirs because Mama constantly boasts her pride in having such a beautiful daughter. And we know that I am theirs, as I have the same mind as our father. Besides, our hearts are the same. They are simply expressed differently."
"I suppose so."
"I know so."
"Girls!" cried Mrs. Bennet, bursting into the room, followed closely by her two youngest daughters. The loud sounds of the piano coming from another room told of the middle daughter Mary's location. "Hurry, there is not a moment to lose! He is coming! We must make this room presentable. Your father will receive him here, as his library is too much of a mess to service. Hurry!"
"Who is coming, Mama?" asked Jane calmly, even as she stood and began to carefully place her work into a basket. Elizabeth did the same.
"Mr. Darcy! And Mr. Bingley! They are come to return a call that apparently your father made but failed to mention! Oh, how shall we ever be ready? Lydia! Kitty! Hurry along and plump those cushions.
"Mary!" she called, looking frantically about the room. "Oh, that silly girl and her music. Mary!" Her voice escalated. "Mary! Come now! I require your help! Mary!"
But while Mrs. Bennet was beckoning her middle girl, Jane and Elizabeth had quickly straightened all in the room. The females hurriedly left, just as Mr. Bennet ambled into the room. Soon after, the bell rang.
"Hill!" screeched Mrs. Bennet in a whispered yell. "Hill! We need biscuits! And tea! And someone please tell Mary to stop that racket!"
"Mrs. Bennet, all I require is a bottle of wine, not our finest, but something nice." Mr. Bennet glanced about the room, deciding he would sit in his favorite wing-chair, and nodded his head. "Yes, a bottle of wine, glasses, and your absence."
Mrs. Bennet huffed at her obvious dismissal. "The nerve!" could be heard muttered from her lips before she seemed to understand that she ought not be present at a call between gentlemen, and took her leave.
The four daughters hurriedly scurried up the stairs to their rooms, Kitty and Lydia giggling and peeking below-stairs in hopes of catching a glimpse of the two gentlemen. Jane and Elizabeth retired to their room, Jane to write to their Aunt and Elizabeth to read. Kitty and Lydia retired to their room as well, but more slowly and not before they had successfully spied the back of Mr. Bingley's well-cut coat and Mr. Darcy's handsome, strong profile.