(From Jane Austen's P&P, in Chapter 8) "When dinner was over, [Elizabeth] returned directly to Jane, and Miss Bingley began abusing her as soon as she was out of the room."
What if Elizabeth had turned back to ask something of Mr. Bingley and heard the conversation?
To be clear, this story will have a great deal of Jane Austen's original words, especially at the beginning and then it will become gradually more different. I like the idea of how one small change could impact the story in a significant way. Keep in mind that while I've used a great deal of Ms. Austen's language, I have added and removed little (or big) pieces throughout, so it will not be identical to the book.
As this is my very first P&P fic, I need all the help I can get! I welcome constructive feedback, as well as supportive, so please review!
When dinner was over, Elizabeth excused herself intending to go directly to Jane. However, halfway to Jane's room, Elizabeth realised that she had not chosen a new book to occupy her time while Jane slept. Feeling it would be rude to search for the library on her own and take property without its owner's permission, Lizzy turned back to ask Mr. Bingley's approval. Upon arriving directly outside the dining room, the door had been left slightly ajar and Elizabeth could hear the conversation inside. While normally Lizzy would never eavesdrop on a private conversation, particularly while a guest in someone's home, she was nevertheless stopped from entering by the realisation that the topic currently being discussed was her arrival earlier that same day. In such a case as this, her curiosity got the better of her and she leaned quietly against the wall, where she could not be seen, but had a slight view of the room and the ability to hear every word.
"Yes, and her petticoat," Mrs. Hurst was lamenting, "I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it not doing its office." Elizabeth was unsurprised to hear her censure and did not concern herself with that lady's dislike.
"Your picture may be very exact, Louisa, but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice." Elizabeth smiled at Mr. Bingley's kind compliment, even as her sense of propriety demanded a small blush for her poor manners in arriving in such a state of dress.
Then Miss Bingley joined in the attack, undoubtedly hoping to ingratiate herself with Mr. Darcy: "You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure, and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition."
"Certainly not." Mr. Darcy's reply was curt and unsurprising to Elizabeth, who rolled her eyes.
"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone!" Miss Bingley's over-exaggerated shock was grating to Elizabeth's ears. "What could she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum."
"It shows an affection for her sister that is very pleasing," pleaded Bingley and again, Elizabeth felt how kind and generous of spirit he was. She had begun to consider loudly walking through the corridor to the door, to announce her imminent arrival into the room, when Miss Bingley spoke again and Elizabeth felt quite unable to move.
"I am afraid, Mr. Darcy, that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes." Elizabeth could not fully react to her confusion before Mr. Darcy's reply sent her mind reeling further.
"Not at all, they were brightened by the exercise."
Lizzy could detect no trace of teasing nor satire in his response, but this was not possible since she knew for a fact that he found her appearance to be lacking. She knew not what she ought to do now and had almost determined that she would quietly leave and forgo asking about the library, preferring solitude to ponder this declaration when Mrs. Hurst began anew.
"I have excessive regard for Miss Jane Bennet, she is really a very sweet girl, and I wish with all my heart she were well settled. But with such a father and mother, and such low connections, I am afraid there is no chance of it."
"I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney in Meryton."
"Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside."
"That is capital!" The sisters laughed at their catty remarks. Elizabeth quite forgot her discomposure at Mr. Darcy's strange comment due to the extreme indignation she felt on behalf of her sister, her family, and herself.
To Elizabeth's pleasure, Mr. Bingley leapt to their defence: "If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside it would not make them one jot less agreeable!"
"But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world," came Mr. Darcy's frank assessment.
Elizabeth hoped more than expected for Mr. Bingley to respond, but no reply came. Instead, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst took Mr. Darcy's agreement of their position as permission to continue to indulge their mirth at the expense of their supposedly dear friend's vulgar relations. Elizabeth did not stay longer to listen to further insults and instead crept quietly back to Jane's room, her head full of their overheard conversation.
A/N: What did you think? I have a couple more chapters in the works still, so if you enjoyed (or even if you didn't), please leave me a review and let me know!