Elizabeth Bennet had been a guest at Netherfield Hall for three days when she developed a slight but persistent headache. The housekeeper of the manor was eager to help the local girl. She knew Miss Elizabeth was there to take care of her sister Jane who had fallen ill while dining with the ever-unpleasant sisters of her well-liked master, Mr Bingley.
Mrs Stone had been housekeeper of Netherfield Hall for over twenty years. Consequently, she was well acquainted with the Bennet girl's reputation. Jane the eldest was known as the beauty of Hertfordshire, was a serene sort of girl who was always kind. Mrs Stone suspected Miss Bennet was shy. As they had chatted many times, she knew Elizabeth was not.
Elizabeth Bennet was known as intelligent, witty and kind-hearted; the girl treated everyone the same, servant or peer. She and her elder sister looked after the tenant's well-being on her father's estate as their mother would not bother.
The maid's tending to the Bennet girls said that serving them was like a spring breeze in comparison to the Bingley and Hurst women. Mrs Stone was sure the cause of Miss Elizabeth's headache was the cattiness of Mr Bingley's sisters, she understood as she had had many headaches from them too.
The days seemed to drag while Elizabeth stayed at Netherfield Hall. She was increasingly irritated by the Bingley sisters and Mr Darcy. The man especially seemed to take every opportunity to find fault with her, looking at her every stir with his aloof countenance and insisting on staring at her or blatantly ignoring her. Her tolerance for the abuse delivered by them was shrinking.
Therefore, it was on the evening of the third day of her stay that Elizabeth asked Mrs Stone for a headache remedy. The good woman informed Elizabeth that she had herbal tea that would help her to relax and soothe her headache. This was much to her relief, though she was looking forward to getting above stairs to her much-beloved sister and leave those vipers to themselves.
Elizabeth sat in the blue parlour with the rest of the occupants of the great house, when the maid assigned to the task, brought Elizabeth's tea to her. She consumed the unexpectedly delicious herbal tea with relish while ignoring the other residents. Miss Bingley, the ultimate hostess, - Elizabeth almost snickered aloud at the thought- had called for the regular pot of tea for the rest of the occupants of the room, which Miss Bingley prepared graciously, she gave her that. Elizabeth was still feeling wretched, but she relaxed somewhat after two cups of tea. After a half hour of boredom, she felt quite drowsy but decidedly less miserable.
Then after their tea, Miss Bingley suggested some sherry for the ladies, and for the gentlemen some port, a suggestion that especially the gentlemen welcomed enthusiastically. It was quite uncommon to serve liquor in mixed company, but boredom was evident that evening among the occupants of the room, so it was overlooked, even by the fastidious Mr Darcy. Elizabeth quickly swallowed her sherry, hoping it would make her feel more alert, as she became a tiny bit too relaxed. Never having any spirits before that evening, she accepted one more as not to be seen as squeamish.
The taste was good, and Elizabeth found the effect soothing to her fragile nerves, worried for a minute becoming like her mother concerning her nerves but dismissed that in an instant. Though she did not get more alert, she established she did not care so much about that any more.
Consequently, and unfortunately, the spirited drink only made her lose her composure even more. Miss Bingley's sharp voice made way through Elizabeth's now blurred brain.
Elizabeth could hear her talking to Mr Darcy in a stage whisper.
"Will you look at your fair lady Mr Darcy, I cannot believe you still admire her fine eyes or approve the brilliancy of her complexion now. I tell you, sir, she is not worth the notice. The girl has no connections, no dowry to speak of, but that might not be of importance to you as you have more than enough of that yourself. But what would your family say about your charming mother-in-law, and those fine uncles in trade? They will be so proud with the addition to their family" she finished her gibberish tittering alike a braying donkey. Well, it sounded so to Elizabeth, and she almost giggled.
Until the gibberish, Miss Bingley had sprouted translated to what the woman had actually said. As if Mr Darcy would think her to have fine eyes. Or good complexion for that matter, not to say something about the preposterous notion of marrying her, she huffed to herself. No, she was tolerable and not handsome enough to have fine eyes; she had nothing but faults.
She would not be made fun off by such a creature as a guest in her house; it was unsupportable. If Miss Bingley, wanted to tease Mr Darcy, that was fine by her but was it too much to ask to leave Elizabeth and her family out of it.
Elizabeth did not hear Mr Darcy's answer, but she did not doubt his reply was as insulting as Miss Bingley's speech. She did not care. She struggled for composure, while her annoyance rose to a degree not felt for a long time.
Thus, it was not unexpected that Elizabeth had enough of the insults and carelessly concealed disdain, arrogance and conceit displayed and voiced by Miss Bingley. Despite her resentment, she addressed Miss Bingley with a calm voice. "Miss Bingley, may I ask you a personal question?"
Miss Bingley replied coldly, attracting the attention of the party gathered in the room in amazement. "Yes, you may Miss Eliza."
The woman was unbearable, to hell with propriety! The now, ever so irate Elizabeth thought. Barely restrained she asked, "Pray, tell me Miss Bingley what I did to you, for you to despise me so? You overstep every boundary of polite society by insulting my family and me in a way; I feel I do now have to respond."
Miss Bingley answered with that grating voice of hers, while haughtily looking over her nose, which was hard Lizzy figured, because it was so long, she also briefly wondered if she always looked cross-eyed as she did at that moment. Confusing evening, she thought before she got riled again. "Why Miss Eliza, I do not think I understand you?"
"Oh, you do not, do you? Shall I explain it to you then?"
"Pray do, Miss Eliza, for I am sure I did not do or say anything which is not the truth or improper."
With the tension rising in the room, even Mr Hurst sat in attention. Yes, this is going to be fun. Caroline has this coming for a long time.
Darcy reasoned. Oh, no this is going to be ugly, yet fascinating. I would not want to be on the receiving end there, but Caroline deserves it.
Mr Bingley did not like confrontations, but this one was … well, warranted.
The gentlemen helped themselves to another glass of port, getting ready for the uncommon entertainment.
"Well, I tell you... Miss Caro," Elizabeth drawled out. "That my given name is Elizabeth. Since you did not ask nor did I give you leave to use even my given name you will respect my wish, and address me as Miss Elizabeth or Miss Bennet. Only my friends are allowed to address me informally."
They all gasped except Elizabeth, of course, she was getting along very well.
"Then, you seem to think my family is inferior to yours. But even your faithful friend here," she continued, nodding in Darcy's direction, "can tell you that we are daughters of a gentleman, while your ancestors are tradesmen, with which is nothing wrong in my opinion as my uncle in trade is the best man I know. I declare that your breeding is faulty, even though you are schooled as a gentlewoman; you do not conduct yourself as one. Your insulting manner, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others, your arrogance, and your conceit are not the accepted behaviour of a gently bred woman or man for that matter." Elizabeth glanced at Darcy again.
Darcy, Bingley, and Hurst, where looking at Elizabeth in awe. Only Darcy's feelings were wounded because Elizabeth had sided him with Miss Bingley. Insulting, arrogance, conceit, disdain, ungentlemanly behaviour? He was nothing like Miss Bingley, could she not see that? He always behaved as a gentleman should.
Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst were shocked into blissful silence's, which pleased the gentlemen to no end.
"Therefore Miss Bingley, pray tell, what I have done to deserve your attacks? Is it because you think you I am a threat in your pursuit of Mr Darcy? Hmm?" Miss Bingley made no reply but started to get somewhat red in the face, which did not do much good to her complexion.
Elizabeth considered Miss Bingley's silence sufficient encouragement to resume, "Well then, I can inform you that your faultless Mr Darcy hardly thinks I am tolerable and certainly not handsome enough to tempt him. Apart from that, I can also inform you he is not interested in you. Do you not see him shudder whenever you approach or even talk to him? He treats you with cold civility, but if I might add you are fortunate, he does not look at you to find fault as he does with me, all his staring is disconcerting you know."
"Let me give you some advice though. Stop hunting the man, no simpering, no insincere and useless compliments, or standing too close; even I can see that your that he does not receive your attention with any pleasure. The only persons in this house that act gently bred are Mr Bingley and Jane. And I wish to thank Mr Bingley for his exemplary behaviour and hospitality." Mr Bingley nodded his acceptance while a big silly grin graced his countenance.
With her anger finally spent on her outburst, she sat in her chair, feeling faint and exhausted but still looking Miss Bingley in the eye.
Miss Bingley, sat near her sister and her already red complexion now became blotchy. She finally regained some power of speech, as she said, "who are you to say these things to me?"
Then looked to Mr Darcy, she demanded. "Tell her she is wrong in her assessment. Tell her, you are interested in me as a desirable woman, and think me well bred." Abruptly she stopped talking and looked around her, what she saw written on her family, and Mr Darcy faces shocked her. Facing Darcy again she whispered, "just tell me if she is correct."
Darcy stuttered, "I…cannot…do so, f...for I, do not know…what to say uh... just now." He was desperately looking at Bingley, begging for his assistance.
Bingley sat back, still with the same a big grin on his face, staring at Elizabeth, seemingly oblivious to his sisters' distress.
Hurst was so content with the display before him; he even forgave Elizabeth telling him effectively he was no gentleman. He looked as if he had just had a magnificent dinner in the royal house with the best spirits available.
His wife, however, seemed less pleased but remained silent, padding her sisters' hand distractedly.
The silly grins on Bingley and Hurst made Elizabeth feel a little better; at least they were enjoying themselves, Miss Bingley seemed discouraged to argument further.
Mr Bingley, gave her another glass of sherry and a cup of herbal tea to soothe her, both which she threw back at once. Looking at Mr Darcy was another thing. He looked positively crushed.
When he caught her eye, he forgot about Miss Bingley and asked Elizabeth the only easy question, as of the rest she had accused him of he, would rather forget. Tomorrow was soon enough to deal with that, or perhaps next week or so. "Why do you assume I look at you to find fault?"
"You have said it yourself, sir. She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me, so it is highly unlikely you are looking at me to admire my beauty. You remember you said that, do you not?" Considering the guilty look on his features, Elizabeth felt no little amount of satisfaction. Feeling giddy all of a sudden, she contemplated for a second how rewarding speaking one's mind was, proper or not.
Mr Darcy, defended, "I made an unfortunate remark as I wanted Bingley to let me be. I was in an unfortunate mood and not willing to be pleased. You cannot say that you dislike me as you suggest, for you have been flirting with me many times since you have been here."
Incensed, Elizabeth snapped, "Flirting, sir? Are you mad? I do not flirt."
"But...you have. You can ask anyone here, and they will confirm that you have. And for your information, I am not mad." Darcy replied agitatedly. "Bingley, was she flirting with me or not?"
"Not," Bingley stated resolutely.
Darcy murmured hesitantly. "Not? But I thought…"
"I think, you overthink. I truly do not like you, sir." Elizabeth quipped cheerfully.
A disappointed, confused and just a tad more than slightly inebriated Mr Darcy blurted out. "You do not? But I admire you. How can it be you do not like me?" Then probably not aware he mumbled it aloud, "I'm not as bad as she paints me, I'm a good catch, am I not?"
"You - admire - me?" Elizabeth cried surprised, not missing the irony. "Well, Mr Darcy I hope for your sake, that what you have shown me is not your manner of courting a favoured lady. I will give you some advice too. If you admire a woman again, it might be helpful if the Lady you desire knows you adore her. It will make your pursuit of her so much more pleasant for both of you. Really if she is aware that you desire her, she can then decide if she wants your attention at all.
My first thought when I noticed you at the Meryton Assembly room were, that you were the most handsome man I had ever seen," she said impishly. "But then you killed it. Like the man who wrote to Jane, and I first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love! You did not write poetry, but your words there were no less tolerable." She mocked.
By now, everybody in the room focused on her banter with Darcy. All assembled enjoying it for their reasons. Miss Bingley, found it most gratifying to see Darcy punished publicly.
She had thought me handsome. Darcy perked up somewhat; he found hope. Blast it. If she can do this, so can I. Ha!
"Indeed, Miss Elizabeth, you are so generous with advice this evening, tell me, what would you suggest I do?" He voiced with a sarcastic undertone and a roguish glint in his eye. Darcy took another drink for courage. Yes, even the master of a grand estate as Pemberley needed courage sometimes.
"I would say, show your feelings freely Mr Darcy. Do not employ the brooding and taciturn approach you seem to be so fond of, does not work." Elizabeth countered with merriment.
Mr Darcy replied with the same amount of merriment. "Are you willing to practice with me, Miss Elizabeth? You seem to know a lot about this wooing matter, and of course, I will be eternally grateful."
"Oh my, Mr Darcy, it will be quite a show for our good audience, and..." She said playfully but not flirtingly, because she did not flirt, did she? "It seems we are doing well now, so why not?"
Decided Darcy stood up and walked up to her. He took Elizabeth's hands in his and pulled her up from her seat. Then without letting go of his grasp on her delicate hands, his thumbs moved softly over her knuckles, he asked seductively, "So you suggest showing it freely?"
A little concerned on what he was about to do; but unwilling to back down, Elizabeth replied hesitantly but bravely. "Yes."
He locked eyes with hers, and he did not waver; pulled her ever so slowly to him, bending his head to hers, then alternating looking from her fine eyes to her delicious lips and back again. Elizabeth could feel his warm breath on her face, and her feelings were in turmoil. These were sensations she did not know. Elizabeth soon discovered; they were pleasing, although a bit confusing and the steadiness of her legs was worrisome. She was sure they would give way if she had not the support of Mr Darcy's hands. He, however, slowly placed her hands upon his jacket lapels so he could free his own.
While all this happened, she remained decidedly unwilling to capitulate. "Are you still sure of your advice, Miss Bennet?" Darcy asked in a seductive whisper. His mouth within reach of hers.
Everybody was mesmerised and quiet with anticipation.
He would not dare. Not with this party to witness. I will not give in. Elizabeth thought recalcitrant and nodded.
"You are sure?" He asked again with a roguish look about him. She found this unexpected expression on his countenance quite appealing; to be honest with herself, he was quite attractive.
She nodded. Confident of her victory, daring him, she added breathlessly. "Yes."
After she had approved his action, twice! He placed one hand at the nape of her neck, lowered his head further to her lips, and kissed her soundly. The other occupants of the room gasped audibly, but Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet did not hear. They were lost in their first kiss.
Having compromised each other this badly, they married a little more than three weeks later and lived happily ever after.