I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all those that took the time to review for me. I know it may not seem a lot but just to know your enjoying my story is great news.
A thank you to those that have read my little story too, merci beaucoup.
My apologies in advance for any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes.
anedrew: Congratulations on calling it, I did try and drop hints.
Julianabr: I'm afraid smoochies may just have to wait a while. Thank you for your continuous reviews.
kmart92: I do hope it wasnt too much, I'm glad you liked it.
priseandpredjy: I hope your anticipation was worth the wait. Glad you like the tale so far thanks for reviewing.
machi3663: I thought it was rather fitting she set his misunderstanding straight herself, I'm glad you like it.
Oddybobo: I'm glad you did I tried to imagine his responses as accurate as possible, thanks for reviewing.
Sdanceqt: Thanks for reviewing.
Guest 1: Sorry it took so long.
Guest 2: I thoight his sense of duty wouldn't surpass his heart.
Guest 3: I love the idea of Darcy fearing Caroline so much that he needs protection it was always something I wanted to add.
varina: I am so sorry for my mistakes I didn't even notice.
Guest 4: Glad you're enjoying the plot.
Cassizhara: I hope I didn't disappoint you too much with this update. Thanks for the review.
Annbr: Now let the fun begin.
janefiction: I thought it would be a great idea as the Colonel would know what buttons to press. I try to show the different reactions as well as slowly revealing the plot. Glad you enjoyed it.
I am so SORRY, it took me so long to update. I must forewarn you that my next update may also take a while to be put up.
Once again please REVIEW! The box shan't harm you. Enjoy!
He thought me engaged to Edward, what a peculiar thing. Elizabeth mused pondering if this was the reason he had seemed so cold and aloof to her recently. It was understandable for him to keep his distance if he supposed her promised to another man, to save her reputation. However, why would he feel the need to keep formality if they were friends, this left Elizabeth pondering the question for the rest of her journey before she got back to her house.
She couldn't decide if this was a positive or negative revelation. How would he act now he knew her to be unattached? Would he be different? Which side of Darcy would she see? She hope that she would see the man she had recognized as her Darcy. She stumbled slightly at the thought, trying to discover when she had started to call Darcy hers. He was promised to his cousin, Collins had revealed and the man was a facet of information. If that were true, he wouldn't display any interest in you. Elizabeth told herself. Before trying to analyse if his attentions were that of a friend.
A friend didn't compliment as he had done. Multiple times now. She had to settle for admitting that their relationship was complicated. Whilst Elizabeth admitted internally that she would be pleased to be friends she did wish for more.
"Lizzy, how was your morning walk?" Mary asked "I hope the sun did not disappoint you this morning." It was a long-standing joke between the two sisters.
When Mary was younger she was forbidden to go with Elizabeth on her morning rambles because she had a habit of wondering off from her sisters. Eventually Mr. Bennet relented and allowed Mary to accompany Elizabeth to see the sunrise after a week of begging had tested his patience.
It was with eager excitement that the two set off towards the peak. Mary held tightly to Elizabeth's hand to keep her balance as they stumbled over the steep fields.
"Lizzy are we there yet?" Asked Mary whilst she followed her sister higher up, her legs burning from the strain of walking so far.
"Not that much further Mary, keep up, quickly before it's too late." She called over shoulder as they trudged on, their skirts had to be lifted to avoid large stains of mud that would send their mother into a fit.
When they reached the peak, Elizabeth was released from Mary's hold as her sister needed to sit down and rest as she was unaccustomed to the excercise. Finally, she regained control over her breathing and stood beside Elizabeth as the sun sparked the sky a light.
Elizabeth watched with awe as the sky awoke setting the day into motion. She looked over at her little sister who was staring at the sky with a blank look on her face.
"Is that all?" She asked, looking expectantly at her sister waiting for something of more importance to happen then the sun to rise. She was feeling very disappointed all her expectations that had manifested in her mind had been shattered by the reality of the event.
"What do you mean? Can you not see the beauty in it?" She asked her Mary not grasping the concept of her sisters uninterest.
"I'm sure there is beauty to be seen, in the colours perhaps but I find it rather disappointing." She admitted to her sister, she spoke it quietly in fear of upsetting her sister for she often upset Lydia and Kitty with her ideas.
Elizabeth to Mary's surprise laughed, "you really are something Mary." She chuckled before leading her sister back towards Longbourne.
"So you are not mad?" She questioned.
"Of course not dearest. If the sun has disappointed you, I am only sorry that you arose at such a time that you do not normally." Elizabeth explained.
Mary never went with Elizabeth on her morning walk to greet the sun but did accompany her on long rambles through the countryside. The event was looked on cheerfully between the sisters and soon became a joke.
"The sun can never disappoint those who expect no more of it then they should." She called as she kissed her sister on the cheek in greeting before seating herself for breakfast.
Breakfast was usually a loud, noisy affair at Longbourne, with the impending arrival of the ball it was more so than normal. Mr. Bennet bore it with a teasing face as he watched his family break their fast, before escaping to his study leaving the women of the house to their preparations.
The conversation was occupied with by the topic of what to wear, Mrs. Bennet was insisting that her eldest and third daughter look their best for they already had suitors and it would be best go please them the most.
"But Mama... I wanted that ribbon for my gown!" Lydia protested loudly over the lull of noise from the table. "Why must I give it to Mary? I do not care to give my best ribbon to her, even if she is so plain it might be the only pretty thing about her."
Lydia's words were timed ill as they were spoken when her sisters had stopped speaking to hear her complaints.
"Lydia!" Elizabeth, Kitty and Jane all exclaimed at once at her words. Each acutely aware of how hard the words would affect Mary who was now sitting looking at her lap. The third Bennet kept her head down and excuse herself from the table, Elizabeth could see the tears already falling.
"How dare you be so cruel." She scolded Lydia as she went after Mary.
"Cruel? I was just being honest. It is not my fault she is so plain, it was a surprise that Eddy even wanted her. No doubt he proposed out of pity, ha! What a bore their marriage shall be." Her words made each woman frown at her, the gentleman had gone for a ride around Longbourne as Collins expressed an interest in seeing the estate. However, Edward had returned to grab some food as he had not yet broke his fast.
"I am not surprised you can not see past yourself, to see the true beauty of your sister." Edward said, standing in the doorway with a face full of anger directed at his younger cousin. "You will do well to hold your tongue Lydia, I will not stand for any insolence towards my wife. Just because you are superficial and shallow does not mean everyone else is. It does you no credit to abuse a beloved sister, I will be speaking to Uncle about this. You will not be welcome at my home until I deem it suitable otherwise"
With that he left in search of his bride, to reassure her of his love.
Lydia laughed nervously when he left, unaware that he was serious. She looked to Kitty, her companion in everything for support.
"Obviously, Eddy is more of a bore then Mary. How fitting they shall be together." Jane shook her head as she left the room, for she could not see a way in which her sister would see the error of her ways.
"What have you done Lydia?" Kitty whispered as she excited the room leaving Lydia with Mrs. Bennet.
Lydia once more looked at her mother for support as she saw no error in her words. However, the look on her mother's face showed the horror that she currently viewed her youngest with.
"How dare you, you insolent girl! You shall hold your tongue, I will not hear of a bad word towards your sister again. I did not raise you to be such a silly girl." She yelled at her favourite, she shook with the anger that fueled her words. "Stupid child, to think yourself above your sister. I would not be surprised if you were thrown out of all of your sister's house when they each marry. Do you not think of anyone but yourself? What a spoilt child you have become and to be out in society as such I will not have it no longer. You will not be out until all of your sisters are married as is custom. I will not stand idly by whilst you ruin your sisters chances of good marriages."
Lydia was close to tears as she realised what her mother was saying. "You would not forbid me from my pleasure, I will go to the ball as I should." She said stubbornly unable to believe her mothers words.
"LYDIA BENNET! Do not test me child. You will not go to any balls, dinner parties, tea parties or any social event. You will not leave this house without permission, you will NOT go into Meryton without myself or your father. Do I make myself clear?" She asked her youngest unmoved by the tears that crept down her cheek for she had seen her child do it on command repeatedly in a ploy to get what she wanted.
"Papa! You can not let her do this to me." She cried as she barged into her father's study hoping for an ally. Her cries made a headache form in Mr. Bennet's mind in seconds.
He had been standing watching the events unfold out of his study's window as Elizabeth and Edward tried to comfort a teary faced Mary. Upon meeting Elizabeth's eye and sharing a brief look, he turned his attention to the intruder in his office. Not once did he raise his voice to his children he had never seen the need to shout at them like their mother, at this moment he had to count to ten to calm himself before he engaged his youngest daughter.
"Enough! I will not have hysteria in my study you either speak properly or leave at once." He demanded, almost instantly Lydia's tears stopped as she wiped them away and started pleading with her father to persuade her mother to changer her mind.
"Lydia, you will leave my study at once and wait in the drawing-room whilst I speak to your mother." He ordered, rubbing his face in frustration as she left the room.
Mrs. Bennet entered, she looked at her husbands distressed face and walked over to massage his temples for him. "Our child complains you are being unjust dear." He murmured as he relaxed into her touch, he felt her stop at his words and grabbed her hands so that she was in front of him.
"You should have heard what she said about Mary. How cruel her words were. We didn't raise her to be so spoilt and mean where did we go wrong?" She muttered as she leaned her head on his shoulder seeking comfort.
"I do not know dear, perhaps we were too relaxed in our parenting for our youngest. I support your decision to prevent her from harming her sisters reputations." He mumbled into her hair as he held her in his arms. "We will both work harder to teach her the proper way in which to act."
Mrs. Bennet nodded before pulling away so she could look into her husbands eyes. "I was thinking of how our actions could affect our daughters." She said averting her eyes as if unsure of how to continue. "I am aware I am too boastful of my daughters and that you appear indifferent my dear."
"You have the right to boast for we created such beautiful children." He teased as he watched her smile. "For with such a beautiful mother how could our girls not be." He watched amused as a blush spread across her cheeks.
"Stop it Thomas, I'm being serious." She tried to remain focused in her mind but seeing her husbands eyes soften at her use of his christian name.
"Fanny, I know dearest but how are we meant to change being the way we are, you can't teach an old dog new tricks and my dear I am very old." He answered, sitting down as if to punctuate his point.
"You are not that old my dear." She whispered into his ear before perching on the arm of his chair. "Maybe if you would come with me to the Netherfield ball instead of hiding away, you could distract me from embarrassing our daughters and show that your are interested in their actions."
He mused this over in his mind before responding. "I suppose it will be a step towards the right direction. What of Lydia?" He asked his wife for clarifications of her feelings.
"I meant every word, she will not come out until it is deemed proper to do so. Hill won't mind watching her whilst we are at the ball and we will be home earlier then normal to compensate if you think that's fair?" She said, believing everyone word she spoke her daughters treatment of her sister was eye-opening to her. She had let her youngest run wild for long enough.
"Very well my dear I will send for her." They waited together until their youngest arrived in the study defiance in her features as she looked towards her mother and turned her simpering gaze onto her father.
"Lydia, you know why you are here. You have behaved wrongly and therefore shall be punished in a way in which your mother and I deem fit. We have left you uncheck for far too long." At this announcement Lydia started to protest. "You will remain silent until I have finished speaking, show me the respect I am due child or your punishment will be longer. Until I believe you are mature enough to be out I will not allow you off the grounds. When we have company you are to remain in your room and if you disturb or embarrass one of your sisters I will extend this timeframe. Are these conditions understood?"
"But I don't want to be locked away... it's not fair !" She yelled, tears streaming down her face as she had wound herself up so much.
"No one asked what you wanted nor your opinion of the fairness of your punishment, I asked if you understood the terms." He repeated his volume didn't increase from his usual voice but it dripped with disappointment and tiredness. Mutely Lydia nodded, as soon as she realised that her father wasn't going to respond to any of her displays she had stopped yelling and crying. Once she was dismissed she rushed off to her room, slamming then locking the door loudly behind parents remained in the study talking over what they had to do for the day.
Elizabeth had caught up to Mary with ease, she had turned out of the house taking the path by their father's window - a bench was positioned near. Gently, she led her sister to the bench settling her down and engulfing her in a hug.
"I do not know what I have done. Was I mean to her as a child? Why does she hate me so?" Mary asked before bursting into tears
"Oh honey, you know she is just bitter over having to share. She does not mean the words she says." Elizabeth murmured kissing her sisters forehead trying to calm her down enough to be able to speak coherently. "She doesn't think about her words she loves you dearly like we all do."
When Mary had calmed down and was in control of her breathing she pulled away from her sisters touch, shaking her head at the words that had been spoken.
"I have to disagree with you, she knows what she says. The problem is she has no compassion for others, a vain creature she has become. What are we to do?" Mary said, wiping her tears as she saw Edward approach.
"It is not up to us to check her, Papa will deal with her as he deems fit. We must have faith in him to correctly discipline her." Elizabeth answered. "You know her words have no basis right dearest?"
Mary eyes darted from Edward ro Elizabeth and she remained silent knowing her answer would only anger them further.
Elizabeth stood by the side of the bench allowing Edward to take her seat whilst she chaperoned them, she caught her father's eye through the window and they shared a knowing look before they each turned away.
"Mary, dearest surely you do not doubt your importance to me." Edward asked of her, seeing her red puffy eyed made him more angry with his cousin.
"You do not have to lie to me Eddy, I am not ignorant of my lack of beauty." Mary responded holding her chin in the air. "I accepted my fate long ago, it just pains me to be so cruelly reminded. You are very handsome and I know handsomer women then I pine for you. Why me Eddy? What have I that they don't?"
"You are smart, stubborn, kind, caring and to me you are the most beautiful woman to grace this earth with your presence." Edward began, letting his devotion seep into his voice and spread across his face as he spoke. "You are more precious to me then the air I breathe, I would be lost without you to guide me. My heart would be broken without you. For you are the only one that can make me smile in my foulest mood, be the light in my dark mind, relieve the burden I carry. You are the only woman I will ever wish to have control of my heart and the only woman i would even want the honour to call my wife."
Mary was teary eyed at the end of his speech, her blush was bright at his words. She loved Edward with all her heart and moments like this made her remember why.
"I love you Mary Francesca Bennet and don't you dare forget it." He said, holding her gaze until she relented and agreed.
"I love you too Edward Thomas Gardiner, with all my heart I promise to never doubt your love." She whispered in response, leaning her head on his shoulder as he traced small circles on his back.
Elizabeth who had been watching couldn't help feel the pang of loneliness, she wanted that in a marriage to love and be loved in return. She coughed subtly to alert them to the improperness of their position, they jumped out of their daze almost like they had forgotten she was there.
"Lizzy what brings you here this fine morning." Edward teased, he would speak to his Uncle once he knew his Mary was fully revived.
"Not much really, I thought a stroll across the gardens would be an acceptable activity this morning. Don't you agree?" She asked, realising that Edward wished to keep Mary away from Lydia for the moment until he had found a solution that pleased him.
"A splendid idea Lizzy, not an obvious ploy to keep me away from the house at all." Mary giggled at the hurt expression on her sisters face.
"How your insinuations wound me sister. To treat me so poorly after I gifted you such happiness is very rude." Elizabeth succeeded in staying sombre whilst speaking, even at the expressions of confusion that her cousin demonstrated.
Mary linked arms with Elizabeth pulling her away from the house on the proposed walk. "How oh dearest sister, did you gift me happiness?" She asked curious as to the response, they walked at a steady pace one that Edward easily caught them up at.
"Why if I hadn't told Eddy to ask Papa we would still be waiting another two months for him to visit and get nervous about facing Papa." Elizabeth declared, the girls laughed at the grumble of protest that came from Edward.
Darcy returned from his walk in an amazing spirit, he was practically skipping with joy at the news he had just digested. It had taken until Elizabeth was out of sight for the meaning to fully register, he had wished to go after her and take her in his arms and never let go. Unfortunately, he had been too slow in his recovery and she had vanished by the time he had become aware of his surroundings once more.
His joyous mood was not to be soured by anyone. Upon his appearance at the breakfast table, Miss. Bingley set about providing him with all of his favourite foods. He was in such a high that he thanked her kindly even if the tea wasnt made to his liking. Miss. Bingley, took this as an encouraging sign. He was finally warming to her, the small acknowledgement sent the woman planning her wedding once more after the rebuke she suffered from him had caused her to doubt such ideas temporarily.
As the Hursts and Miss. Bingley departed to pursue the preparations for the ball, the gentlemen were preparing to make a call to Longbourne. Richard watched in amusement at the two grown men that were acting like eager little boys making their first calls. Charles was watching the clock with a frown watching the seconds tick by until it was a suitable time to call on the Bennet's. In their haste to get ready neither gentleman had spared a thought to the time so had been stuck pacing and frowning until Richard arrived. Where they were further disappointed when he announced that Georgiana wished to call on her friend and would need them to wait for her to dress.
He had asked his cousin not to rush to dress herself, chuckling at the picture that Darcy and Bingley presented in their agitated states. Both fidgeting in their seats, getting up and sitting down neither being able to sit still for more than a few seconds. Darcy paced as was his habit, making Richard chuckle at the spectacle that one little woman had created in his cousin.
His musing didn't last long before they transferred to his love, he hadn't seen her since he had returned and would not see her until easter unless he wanted to arouse suspicion. He knew that she hoped that they would be untied, but he was a poor soldier and had nothing to offer her. He had no wish to live of her funds he was a man of honour and would remain so, even after they wed. The Gardiner's had helped his achieve his goal and greatly succeed the targets he had in place, when he next saw his beloved he was prepared to lay his pride on the line for her - he hoped she would accept him.
Georgiana entered the room to see three very occupied males. Two of whom where venting their frustration through movement and the third had a far away look on his eye as if imagining somewhere different.
"Surely, she can have no need to take so long Rich." Darcy said, walking towards his cousin in frustration. None had noticed Georgiana's entrance much to her amusement.
"Yes Rich, surely I can not be taking such a long time." Georgiana called, keeping a straight face as she walked away. "Come on, I do dislike to be kept waiting."
The gentlemen dutifully followed her, the carriage had been prepared beforehand so was ready to move as soon as they climbed into it.
"I do believe your Miss. Bennet is to blame for our wards change." Richard teased Darcy, as they followed the blonde woman to the carriage.
"She is not mine." Darcy retorted silently adding Not yet anyway
"Not yet, but you wish her to be." Bingley called, startling Darcy who was contemplating the likely hood of Bingley having the ability to read minds.
"I.. I-i. I do not know." Darcy conceded defeat remaining in silence once more.
The duration of time spent in the carriage was peaceful, Longbourne was the closest neighbouring house estate to Netherfield. The journey felt like years to the two gentlemen eager to see their beauties.
Georgiana was troubled with the information Miss. Bingley had given her, she had decided to tell Elizabeth of the plan and let her deal with it. She had not seen the woman since her drunken state and was quite thankful for she was unsure of how to act around her. If everything went as planned all of the three men that were dear to her would be very happily married. She had tried to goad Richard into telling Darcy of his plans, so that her brother could show his support of the union but Richard refused.
"It is presumptuous of us to assume before there is even an acknowledgement." He had chastised when they had spoken. So lost in her thoughts she was surprised to realised that they had arrived at Longbourne.
Whilst they awaited entry they heard a yell then a loud slam of a door, the group looked at each other wondering if now was a good time. They were shown into the drawing-room where two Bennet sisters, Mr. Collins as well as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet stood to greet them.
Darcy was surprised to see the gentleman out of his study, Elizabeth spoke fondly of her father and had the greatest respect for him. The young man saw it as a opportunity to get to know the snowy heard man.
"Miss. Bennet, Miss. Kitty, Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Bennet allow me the honour of introducing my cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and my sister Miss. Georgiana Darcy." He was proud of himself for trying to take a step towards Elizabeth's family. The only pity he felt was that Elizabeth was not here to witness his attempts.
"Mr. Darcy, Miss. Darcy, Colonel and Mr. Bingley. A pleasure to have you here this morning. Please take a seat my wife will be sure to call for tea if you wish for some refreshments." Mr. Bennet announced as he eyed the tall gentleman whose eyes had scanned the room in disappointment. This lead Mr. Bennet trying to decipher which of his daughters the man was pining for. Lydia was much too young for him, that left Mary or his Lizzy.
"Such honour you have bestowed upon my family and I. Lady Catherine's graceful traits have been obviously inherited by yourself. She will be delighted to know how you respond to her guidance. To grace us with your presences is a pure delight as well privilege that I know is felt keenly by my relations. Miss. Darcy, an honour to be introduced to you. Lady Catherine was saying not two weeks ago at how she has missed your company in your brother's recent visits. She will be most pleased to be informed of your improved health and your caring nature to spare time to visit us." Mr. Collins declared, setting the Darcy's on edge before they had even been in the room a couple of minutes.
"Mr. Collins I am sure we can excuse you then." Mr. Bennet drew the attention of the man who had gone into raptures of the expected joy Lady Catherine would exhibit at his next letter. "Your patronesses letter will surely require the deepest detail possible. This I imagine will entail a large amount of your time. I am sure we could excuse you to begin such a letter to your patroness."
His words were met by the verbal gratitude of Mr. Collins as he hurried out of the room to complete his task as soon as possible.
"Papa, you know he does not understand your teasing as such." Jane whispered as she passed, her heart was pained to witness the man so ignorant of the mockery her father had just subjected him to.
As soon as it was identified that Miss. Bennet was in the room Mr. Bingley did not tend to anyone else which left Darcy to fend for himself. He saw his sister start to hide in her shell the exposure to so many new people unnerved her. Thankfully it was short-lived as she was drawn into conversation by Miss. Kitty, who Darcy noticed wasn't as simpering as she appeared to be when with her sister.
"I hope your other daughters are well." Darcy continued trying to obtain his civil demeanour with her father, whilst subtly prying into the location of Elizabeth.
"I would say that the answer depends on who you ask." Mr. Bennet answered cryptically, enjoying toying with the man who sat opposite him. He looked at the room, his wife was deep in conversation with the Colonel who didn't seem eager to be free of the conversation which was a surprise to him. Mr. Bingley and Jane were deep in conversation, this drew his attention as he watched his daughter expressions for any sign of love. He saw her smile more deeply with adoration at the gentleman across from her, Mr. Bennet's only wish was for Jane's suitor to understand her emotions before he thought her indifferent.
"Tell me Mr. Darcy, is the library at Netherfield to your liking." The elderly gentlemen asked, knowing from Elizabeth that the Netherfield library was not as well stocked as his precious book room.
"It is not as well stocked as I am used, but it is sufficient for Bingley's reading habits." He replied.
"I do believe that is to expected, my Lizzy did mention you were an avid reader and told me that you were even so gracious to offer the loan of your own collection to her during her stay at Netherfield." He watched the dark haired man take the bait at the mention of his daughter.
Darcy unconsciously sat up a little straighter and his features softened remotely at the mention of Elizabeth. He took it as an opening to inquire about her.
"Your daughter is very well read, I was offering her a better selection then what was available to her. I do hope she is well this morning; she has been a dear friend to my sister and i would dislike for her to become under the weather." He pried, scorning himself at the flimsy excuse for his questioning.
"She is quite well I assure you, my wife tells me that your library at Pemberley has been the work of generations of your family." Mr. Bennet declined the man the pleasure of discussing the topic that he clearly wished to continue. He was silently amused as he watched the man frown once more as soon as the topic was changed.
The rest of the conversation that passed between the two men consisted of books and their opinions on the texts they had read. Darcy felt very comfortable with Mr. Bennet even after such a short time because the silvering gentleman felt familiar to Darcy, he reminded Darcy of his father and the way he was. This realisation made Darcy grow silent and withdraw into his own thoughts as he recollected the times he would spend with his father.
"Would you like to see it?" Mr. Bennet asked, as he stood cracking his back in the process leading him to mutter about getting old as he walked away. He did not await a response from the gentleman but left his study door open.
Darcy followed behind him cautious as he was unsure of his welcome. Elizabeth had joked that her father's study was his sanctuary that few had the permission to invade. Darcy felt proud at having the honour bestowed upon him as he crossed the threshold, closing the door behind him. His gaze fell on the neatly stacked shelves of books that decorated the walls of the study. His eyes roved over familiar titles, as well as unknown authors that he had never heard of.
"I consider my books my prize possessions aside from my wife and children." Mr. Bennet spoke, drawing his fingers over the spines. "I have spent my whole life collecting these books. When I die I have organized it so they are sold for a profit to help aid my wife."
Darcy stood awkwardly unsure of what to say or do. He knew thanks to Mr. Collins that Mrs. Bennet would not have the house upon Mr. Bennet's passing, but he was surprised at the gentleman's willingness to sacrifice his life's work. When he voice it Mr. Bennet chuckled at him.
"I am too selfish to sacrifice all of my books." Mr. Bennet stated, positioning himself near his window to watch his daughters and nephew. "My favourites I have saved. My Lizzy's favourites too are saved as well as a few of Mary's sermons that she loves to read in moments of trial."
Darcy could still not fathom a reason to be told this information and told Mr. Bennet so.
"You look like your father." Mr. Bennet commented, sending Darcy off-balance once more.
"You knew my father?" He asked truly surprised at the information. He had to restrain himself from pinching his leg to reassure himself that he was not dreaming.
"We went to university together. We even survived a few seasons in the Ton together." Mr. Bennet remarked smiling as he remembered the days of which he spoke. "I saw him mary the love of his life, your mother, before I settled myself here. We kept in touch until he died, he was so very proud of the man you had become."
"I could never be half the man he was" Darcy declared.
"Your just as modest as he was, both so eager to deflect any form of flattery its amusing that you act so much like he once did. I am telling you this Mr. Darcy because like your father, I believe you to be an honourable man." Mr. Bennet turned his piercing eyes, that reminded Darcy so much of Elizabeth, upon the gentleman that stood before him scrutinizing him closely. "As a man of honour, I will allow you to pursue my Lizzy if you so desire. However, I will not allow you to do so on a whim or a brief infatuation. I believe it will be better for both of you if you decide before it becomes a fickle fancy for you. You can pursue my daughter with my consent or seek a more advantageous marriage amongst the Ton. My daughter deserves respect and will be treated with the up most respect by yourself which ever you choose, I will not judge your decisions. I will caution you though Mr. Darcy, Lizzy is no delicate society belle she is not one to be trifled with lightly."
Darcy was stunned, he could think of no appropriate response to the old man's words. He was surprised at that moment of the towns perception of Mr. Bennet's actions regarding his daughters. Darcy could not support the claims that the man was indifferent. He had felt the full force of the mans warning and that was without the man even implying any form of threat. Yet the outcome was still the same, he knew not to mistreat Elizabeth otherwise he would be having Mr. Bennet to answer to.
Thankfully, he was saved from answering by the door swinging open. Both men turned as the musical laughter of Elizabeth danced in the room.
"Mr. Darcy! Papa, I did not know you had a guest." She curtseyed before exiting the room as quickly as she had entered it.
Mr. Bennet watched amused as the stern mask on the gentleman's face cracked into a small smile as the sound of laughter filled the room. His interest was sparked more as he watch the smile grow at the appearance of Elizabeth, as well as the blush that spread like fire across his daughters cheeks as she spotted Mr. Darcy in the study. He made a mental note to talk to her when he had chance, as he realised that the man was in love with his daughter. His favourites feelings he could not decipher for the interaction had been too brief for him to gather any evidence to say anything of her feelings.
Mr. Bennet chuckled as he thought about what his wife would say if she witnessed the interaction. The sound broke Darcy from his musings, he realised with a blush that his eyes had been focused upon the door that Elizabeth had just escaped from.
"You may go if you wish Mr. Darcy, all I ask is that you heed my warning." Mr. Bennet reminded him, as the gentleman looked to leave. "Please ask Mr. Bingley to see me." He added as an after thought, he might as well deal with him now Mr. Bennet thought to himself as he settled himself into his seat.
Darcy in his haste to see Elizabeth could only try to not fall over his feet in the rush he was to leave the confides of the study. He felt a renewed sympathy towards Edward who had faced the imposing man that was Mr. Bennet for Mary's hand. He also, felt himself have a deep respect for the old gentleman.
Upon his re-entry to the drawing-room his heart dropped and a frown replaced the smile that had just been present. Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen but Mary and her fiancé was seated by Georgiana aiding Kitty in conversation. Richard was still deep in conversation with Mrs. Bennet, Darcy wondered briefly about what they were conversing about before he spotted Bingley.
Jane and Bingley were seated apart from the group lost in each others smiles and eyes. He approached them and awaited until his presence was noticed before he interrupted. Darcy smiled apologetically at Jane before whispering Mr. Bennet's request in his friends ears.
"Will you excuse me, my angel? Your father has requested my presence, I shan't be long." Bingley told Jane, kissing her hand before he left the room. This left Jane dazed smiling at her hand lost in her own world so much that she didn't notice Darcy's criticizing eye.
Darcy was still unsure of the extent of regard Jane had for Bingley. He knew that they appeared happy together, but Bingley had been burned before and he could see no great affection on Jane's side to secure his approval of the match. However, he had to recognize that Jane didn't show a lot of her emotions in a similar way that he hid his. Therefore he had resigned himself to ask someone who was more knowledgable about Jane's expressions before he cast judgement - Elizabeth would have the answers he sought if she reappeared again.
He left Jane to her own mind and gravitated towards his sister, to observe her interactions. He noted that she appeared relaxed once more, she looked very comfortable amongst the Bennet's. They were talking of music, a topic that Kitty knew little of so making her excuse to keep Jane company she moved to participate in conversation with her eldest sister.
Mary and Georgiana talked of their love of different composers and discussed their different opinions. Edward contented himself with inputting what information he could supply but mostly listened. Georgiana tried to get Edward to exhibit his skills, once it was revealed that he could play.
"Oh do play for us Mr. Gardiner, it has been many years since i have heard a gentleman play the pianoforte. Not since my brother stopped playing." Georgiana's eyes grew wide as if she realised she had just revealed personal information about her brother that he may not wished to have been disclosed. She looked at him to convey her apology.
"You play sir?" Elizabeth asked, drawing his attention. "Another attribute to add to Miss. Bingley's list."
Darcy chuckled at the tease, easing his sister guilt as she heard the novel sound that had not been heard frequently since the Ramsgate incident.
"I am sure she will welcome your input to write such a list." Darcy replied, enjoying the musical laughter that he had been successful in extracting from her.
"It would take far too long to actually put all of your talents into writing." Elizabeth shot back, basking in a breath-taking smile that made her loose her thought for a second. "I believe my time is much better spent persuading you to play for us."
"You discard my idea for a plan that will surely take longer than the first." Darcy teased, he knew if she asked then he would play but he was enjoying their conversation too much at the moment. He was sorely disappointed as he watched her laugh then turn to her cousin, efficiently stopping their conversation.
"Eddy, surely you will not disappoint Miss. Darcy. She has expressed a wish for you to play for us, will you not do so?" She asked sweetly, in such a manner he found himself at a lost to refuse especially as he saw Mary's expectant gaze.
"Miss. Darcy, wouldn't it be more pleasing for you to witness the breathtaking performance of my cousin's duets than just my poor playing." He charmed Georgiana into being an ally to persuade Mary and Elizabeth to perform with Edward.
The Netherfield party had experienced the delight of one of Elizabeth's songs, they were all eager for more.
"Jane and Kitty must sing with us, let us put on a show for Miss. Darcy." Elizabeth proposed to the delight of the youngest Darcy. Her eager smile easily persuaded the sisters to sing for such a sweet girl.
The room was organized so everyone had a clear view of the pianoforte. The instrument was an elegant instrument though not as beautiful or fine as others that the group had seen it was clear that the instrument had been cared for very carefully.
Mr. Bennet and Bingley took seats in the make shift audience. Mr. Bennet had eagerly left his study upon receiving the information that his daughters were going to perform. Though Mr. Bennet sought pleasure in many things hearing his children sing was one of the few things that brought him pure joy. He often requested they sing his favourite songs when he was unwell or feeling down it helped boost his spirits and recover quicker.
Mr. Bennet seated himself beside his wife, grasping her hand in his as Edward began the bars of introduction. He played the four simple chords before the tune became more elaborate. His wife squeezed his hand tightly upon recognizing the tune. It was one of the ones that the girls had composed for them.
The room was silent as Jane began her verse, the words sprung from her lips as if painting the words before her. The audience was captivated as her sweet voice continued passing the next verse to Kitty who sung just as beautifully if a little higher than her sister. Elizabeth sang next her angelic voice captivated Darcy who could not take his eyes off her. Mary's voice was clearly the easier one to do vocal tricks with, she hung onto notes longer than her sisters. The song concluded with all the sisters and Edward harmonising perfectly his tenor voice fit in perfectly with the sisters sopranos and altos.
Mrs. Bennet was busy wiping her tears as the room clapped at the end of the performance. Even the servants who were suppose to be working stopped their chores to listen to the voices of the Bennet's.
Lydia who was sat sulking in her room threw her pillow against the wall in vexation at being unable to join them. The visitors were paying her sisters the attention she should have been receiving. Her sisters wouldn't have been singing if she was there because it was unfair on Lydia. Unlike her sisters Lydia although beautiful was not musically inclined like her sisters, meaning they rarely performed together because Kitty feared upsetting her sister.
Darcy was truly stunned at the talent the Bennet's had, he knew plenty of ladies that would be displeased to discover the musical talent that they harboured. Georgiana burst into tears over the song. Darcy grew panicked that something was wrong with his sister as tears streamed uncontrollably down her cheeks. He was working himself into a frenzy, until his sister laughed at him giving him a watery smile. It was then explained to him that the emotion lf the song was overwhelming for Georgiana so she had ended up crying.
"It truly was beautiful. I have never heard of anything like that." Georgiana commented as she cleaned her face of any trace of tears, using Elizabeth's handkerchief. "Pray tell me who was the composer I would love to own such a beautiful piece."
Mary blushed slightly at the praise she was unknowingly being given. "Actually, Elizabeth and I composed the piece as a gift to Papa for his birthday. We each wrote our own verses as well as the last one together in celebration of their Wedding anniversary last year, it was Kitty's idea." Mary admitted shyly, cautious of how her opinion my alter once she realised that no one famous had written the song.
The Netherfield group were dumbfounded at the revelation, they were quick to praise the piece more but were deflected by the sisters who gave the praise to each other and refused to accept it personally.
"It was a most beautiful piece, my favourite from them all." Mrs. Bennet announced as she removed the last trace of her own tears. "I believe I cried for a whole hour when I first heard it. There is no shame in acknowledging the beauty in it, my dear." She patted Georgiana's hand affectionately whilst directing the last part towards the gentlemen she had witnessed rubbing their eyes at the end of the song.
"I hope you do not find me so bold to ask, but I would love it if you could compose a piece for me." Georgiana asked shyly, unsure if she had the right to ask such a thing. Elizabeth smiled brightly at her new friend.
"I would be delighted to compose a piece for you, perhaps for your birthday?" Elizabeth readily agreed, she had been working on a piece that she needed a little assistance from Mary that would be perfect for Georgiana.
The room separated into groups once more, unfortunately for Darcy Mr. Bennet demanded his time by asking how is relations were faring as he had not seem them in some time. This lead to a discussion on who had married whom and which ones now had children. Richard was entertaining Mrs. Bennet and Kitty with stories about his time overseas, censuring it slightly so they didn't hear about the blood shed in battles just funny tales about his soldiers. The two couples were too occupied with each other to notice anyone else in the room, Georgiana saw the opportunity that sat before her and took it.
"Lizzy, would you care for a walk in the garden. I would like to see your roses they look similar to the ones at Pemberley." She asked, drawing Elizabeth from her thoughts. Elizabeth had grown quite and was inattentive to the conversation once she noticed Mr. Bennet and Darcy were speaking together. From where she sat he looked perfectly at ease to speak with her father the sight stirred up thoughts that were best left alone she thought.
"I would love to show you them Gigi." Elizabeth replied glad to have the distraction.
The two women strolled at a leisurely pace, neither in a rush to return to the drawing-room. Elizabeth recognized that Georgiana wished to speak to her alone so waited patiently for her to begin.
"In the short time I have known you Lizzy, I feel like I have found a sister." Georgiana admitted, fidgeting with her hands in a sign of nervousness. Elizabeth stopped, she knew that herself and Georgiana had grown close within their short acquaintance but had no idea that she esteemed her as such.
"Oh dearest, I think of you as my sister too." Elizabeth reassured the younger girl, trying to ease her anxiety that appeared to be building.
"I wish to tell you something. It is something that few know, I do believe that only my brother, Richard and Mr. Bingley know aside from those who are involved. I do not know where to start." Georgiana started, she wiped frantically at her face as tears spilled without her consent.
"Gigi, if it is something that distresses you as such perhaps it is best that you do not speak of it." Elizabeth tried to persuade her, although her curiosity was burning.
"No, I wish to tell you. I'm sorry, I did not think I would cry. I must blame them upon my emotions being unbalanced." She tried a meek laugh through her tears that made Elizabeth grimace unsure if she should let her continue if she was going to work herself into a state.
"I suppose my story starts when I went to Ramsgate with my companion Miss. Young, my brother was away a lot on business and thought I deserved a treat. Whilst I stayed there I met Mr. Wickham I thought by coincidence, but I later learnt that it was orchestrated by the two of them. I had all but fond memories about him, for he had always be kind to me when I was a child." Elizabeth listened with dread filling her stomach as Darcy's words echoed in her ears about the mans rake ways. "Throughout my stay I saw him repeatedly, he treated me not as if I was a child like I was a woman. A true lady, for the first time in my life I felt grown up. How pathetic it seems now, he persuaded me I was in love with him. He tried to get me to elope with him I almost did too."
Georgiana paused knowing she had just incriminated herself and could lower herself in Elizabeth's eyes. An elopement was a scandal no matter what class you are from, the shame she could have brought her family was immense. However, when she looked at her friend she saw no disgust just a mildly surprised expression.
"Gigi but you didn't. That's what really matters, not what you thought or said but what you do." Elizabeth said, pulling the girl into a fierce hug as if she could shelter her from the world. Georgiana shook her head and pulled away from the contact.
"But I would of...if if Fitz hadn't stopped me." She stuttered through her tears. "He turned up, a surprise visit, he caught me and Wickham together. I truly thought I was in love and he loved me, Fitz made me see the truth. The man only wanted my dowry, I was so embarrassed."
Elizabeth could only hold her friend whispering words of comfort until she felt Georgiana relax and pull away from the embrace laughing off her tears.
"But Gigi, you recovered. You learnt from your almost mistake. Nothing you did was wrong, the emotional manipulation that you were subjected to is vulgar. If I were a man I would hunt down this man and test him with my sword." Elizabeth declared causing Georgiana to giggle at the image. "fortunately for him I am not. Thankfully, you are growing into a beautiful, wise woman who will not be fooled twice."
Georgiana nodded her head as the last words left her friends lips. "It was not my intention to tell you so. For I had thought it would make you look at me differently."
"I could never see you as anything other than a sister. One that I will protect for as long as I am able." She proclaimed the words that were the catalyst as Georgiana jumped up and hugged her friend tightly only releasing when Elizabeth complained of the inability to breathe.
Unknown to the ladies, Mr. Darcy stood a few feet behind them, being struck still by the words he had just heard. His heart was bursting with pride as he absorbed the sight before him. As quietly as possible he backtracked not wishing to disrupt the scene.
"Dear Gigi, if you had no plans to reveal your tale to me. Then what did you wish to speak to me of?" Elizabeth asked once she was released from the young girls hold.
"Last night, my brother was short and abrupt in his handling of Miss. Bingley. She retired to her room early, I went to see if she was faring well." Georgiana explained, once more fidgeting with her gloved hands. "She was, she was deep in her cups I believe. I do not wish to speak ill of her but she revealed some information that regarded you."
Elizabeth's eyebrow lifted at this unsure if she wanted to know, before she was able to voice so Georgiana continued. "Miss. Bingley told me that she had encouraged Mr. Collins to from an attachment towards you. A ploy to ensure that you will not marry my brother."
Georgiana was startled as laughter spilled from Elizabeth, it was not the response she was expecting. In her anticipation of this scene she had always thought Elizabeth would be angered or take caution of her words.
"Mr. Collins intention of coming here was to find a wife, do not look so alarmed I know what to expect from him." Elizabeth reassured her young friend before turning them back in the direction of the house. "As for Miss. Bingley's belief of their being anything between your brother and i, I do believe it is all in her head. She must have a reason for Mr. Darcy's indifference and I am her scapegoat."
Georgiana looked at Elizabeth as if assessing her for something. She had hoped that Elizabeth would admit to have some regard for her brother. It would pain her so to see the affection be one-sided. Although her brother was well rehearsed in concealing his emotions, Georgiana had years of experience in deciphering them.
When they returned to the room, they discovered the party was awaiting the arrival of their carriage. Georgiana, neatly curtseyed and paid her respects to the family before taking her brother arm giving him a smile to ease his fears of her overtaxing herself.
It was Richard who commented on the time first, reminding the group that they had other calls to make. No one mentioned that they had stayed longer than would normally been deemed suitable for the morning calls.
"I had hoped to have yourself as well as the whole Netherfield party dine with us for dinner. If that would be agreeable to your plans." Mrs. Bennet revealed to Mr. Bingley as they rose to leave, whilst trying to keep her voice at an acceptable volume. It had been a while since she had felt the need to be loud, she realised that people listened to her when she spoke normally more so than when she shouted over others. She saw by the surprised looks of her daughters that they expected more boisterous behaviour from herself, she felt deeply ashamed. The truth that her daughters were embarrassed by her usual dawned unexpectedly on her, leaving her making a vow to prove to herself and everyone else that she could act properly.
"I do believe I am currently occupied until after the Netherfield ball. I would have to check with my sister for I am hopeless at remembering social engagements myself." Mr. Bingley explained as he took his leave of the family, bowing neatly to them before kissing Jane's hand and entering the carriage.
The day of the ball arrived with eager anticipation for Meryton. Although, they often had gatherings they had not been party to such a lavish event that Miss. Bingley was bound to throw. Rumours spread that she had decorations and foreign deserts that Meryton had only heard off were to be imported from Town. Meryton was abuzz with the speculations as they each dressed to impress their new neighbours. Each single young lady were forced into their best dresses by the matchmaking mamas in hopes of drawing the attention of the wealthy gentlemen that resided in Netherfield.
"Lydia!" Kitty cried in dismay as her younger sister refused to aid her, out of jealous spite. Lydia had repeatedly told her sister that she looked hideous and would insult which ever way she tried to do her hair.
"It's not fair. I should be going, I am prettier then you. What is the point of you going when your dress washes you out." She told Kitty spitefully, who was trying to prevent her tears from falling as she located the ribbon Lydia had just pulled from her hands declaring it hideous. "I did nothing wrong. Without me Mr. Bingley wouldn't even be holding the ball. Why should you be able to go and not i? You are all just jealous because I am more loved."
The youngest Bennet was silenced when Kitty turned quickly to face her, the expression she wore was one that stole the words she had been about to speak.
"You have acted stupidly, I can not fathom any excuse I form for your actions. How cold you have become and how silly of me not to see it before now. I am older than you, it is only proper that I am out before you. I will not be cast in your shadow no more, just because you are too selfish to share someones company be it Maria or a soldier. Still I see no remorse in your eyes. I find that i pity you sister, I pray for your reconciliation from your actions for yourself and those you have pained." Kitty proclaimed before grabbing the ribbon she desired and the left the room without a farewell.
She knocked before entering Jane's and Elizabeth's room, all the Bennet daughters that were allowed to attend the ball had gathered in the room to aid each other in preparations. Sharing one maid between them they helped each other dress and the elder two did each others hair whilst Mary and Kitty had the skilled hands of the maid.
Mary was given the most attention, as her sisters insisted she dressed her best to show Edward what a prize he had gained. They leant her one of Jane's gowns that fit her perfectly and was lighter that the usual dull shades that she hid herself behind. Kitty gave her the best ribbon she had just took back from her younger sisters clutches.
Elizabeth directed Sarah in doing Mary's hair, altering it from the usual tight bun that it was often subjected to. All the sisters were envious of Mary's luscious locks and easily persuaded her to style it in a half up style that allowed some of her hair to fall at her shoulders. Each of the Bennet's supported this style as a compromise of Mary's hesitation to model such a look.
For Kitty it was the first time she taken part in the tradition of getting ready together, as Lydia always commanded that she dressed with her so she could give her opinion. Especially as the elder sisters refused to entertain her in such a way and preferred to help others dress then focus on themselves. She was surprised at the attention she was paid and the offers of fine dresses. She was accustomed to allowing Lydia wear the best materials and her dressing in her second. Instead she found herself fingering the smooth fabric of one of Lizzy's dresses that was truly beautiful, it was the one her Aunt had gifted for her birthday.
The dress was truly amazing, although it had not been worn more than twice by Lizzy for she feared ruining it she offered it to Kitty when she caught her look wistfully at it. As the younger donned their chosen dress they asked their sisters for their opinions. Both Elizabeth and Jane turned and a short silence fell over the room that making the younger two suddenly feel self-conscious but were comforted as their elder sisters were quick to compliment them.
"Truly Jane I do believe your beauty may have some competition." Lizzy teased them as she took in the sight of her younger sisters. "Those poor gentlemen will be half in love with all three of you by the end of the evening."
Each sister blushed at the words, Mary was the quickest to recover "but what of you dear Lizzy?You do look like an exotic beauty, if we are to have them half in love with us but it will be you that shall bewitch them with just your smile."
Lizzy simple laughed at the idea, although she had to reluctantly admit that she had taken more care than usual to dress. She had worn her favourite dress whilst denying to herself that all her preparation wasn't for a particular gentleman.
"Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy and Eddy will surely be unable to keep their eyes off you all evening." Kitty commented gently, as she looked into the mirror upon her sisters vanity. She blinked her eyes as if to clear them, before her stood a vision of beauty something she was not associated with. She knew her sisters were the beauties of Meryton, however she considered herself as Mary did as plain. Both sisters were surprised to see that their reflection showed women of sophisticated airs and beauty.
"Mr. Darcy?" Elizabeth asked startled to hear his name.
"Dearest Lizzy why will you not admit that you like him?" Jane asked, as she watched her sister stubbornly deny any attachment once again.
"For there is nothing to admit. I find him to be a grand man who I can have an intellectual stimulating conversation with other than Papa, I value him as a friend. I have no wish or expectations for more from him." Elizabeth informed her sisters as she straightened Mary's bow once more.
"I do not think friendship is all he seeks from you sister." Kitty stated, "I have seen the way he looks at you."
"Is that so Kitty. For if we are to start on this topic I will be eager to hear your thoughts on John Lucas's stares." Lizzy threatened, Kitty blushed as she understood the implications of Elizabeth's words.
"Does our dear little sister have an admirer?" Mary asked as she watch the blush travel across her sister's cheeks settling in with a red glow.
Kitty tried to deny it but was prevented when Jane joined in with her sisters questionings. "You cannot speculate that all three of us are witnessing events of coincidence. I saw him look at you repeatedly at the last assembly you attended."
As they made their final alterations to their dresses they teased Kitty of her admirer who in return set the sisters teasing each other about the item of their affections. When they finally deemed themselves presentable they descended the stairs to where their parents and Edward awaited them, Mr. Collins was yet to appear.
The sisters designed it so that Mary would enter last so they could all witness his expression as he saw her. Jane, Elizabeth and Kitty entered displaying themselves for inspection from their mother who was stunned into silence.
"Where is Mary?" Edward asked, after complimenting his cousins he was eager to see his fiancé.
Taking a deep breath Mary entered the room, her eyes searching past the encouraging smiles of her sisters, flitting over the amused expression of her father as well as the stunned look of her mother. Mary's eyes locked with Edwards who appeared flabbergasted his mouth hung open until she gently pushed it shut.
"Must you catch flies dear?" She teased, once again feeling self-conscious at his continued staring. "What is wrong? Do I look horrible?"
Edward snapped out of his silence only to find himself unable to put into words how he felt. "You look, you look em... different. Not that's a bad thing it's not, it's a good thing. I'm not saying you don't look good the way you normally do... I think your beautiful before and now." He hid his face in embarrassment, finally he decided to just say what he was thinking. "Stunning Mary, you look breath-taking. I shall be very jealous of anyone that asks for your hand in a dance. Maybe we should stay at home"
His comment was met by laughter from his cousins who shook his head at him.
"I find myself inclined to agree. My girls have grown too fast, I think we should stay home and enjoy five more years here." Mr. Bennet said half serious.
"How beautiful you all look." Mrs. Bennet whispered, her hand hooked in her husband's arm as she absorbed his strength as she took in the wonder before them. "Your suitors will be very proud to have you on their arms."
The girls seemed unsure of how to take such a compliment from their mother as they had become accustomed to being berating for noting being as beautiful as her Jane or Lydia. However, Mr. Bennet's daughters couldn't bask in their surprise for long as the leering gaze of Mr. Collins suddenly entered the room causing Elizabeth to wrap the shawl around herself tighter.
The Nethefield party were welcoming guests into the ball, Miss. Bingley stood apart gazing down at those that entered as if condemning them for their happy expressions. Mrs. Hurst was acting hostess as was the custom, an arrangement that had resulted in several antiques getting thrown in a futile attempt to change her brothers mind.
"I will not have you control my actions Caroline." Her brother had warned her as he over saw the removal of the broken pottery. "I am the man of this house and I have the authority to demand that you do as I say. I will no longer tolerate this, the expense of the vases shall come out of your pin money. Louisa will be my hostess as she is eldest it is her right. I am giving you a few guidelines to follow."
Caroline looked at her brother in disgust, she was not going to be told what to do. "How dare you treat me in such a way, I am your sister." She screamed at him, fury overriding any sense of dignity she had left.
"I will treat you in anyway I perceive fit to do so. You are under my care, living in my home and buying objects with the money I supply you with. It will do you credit to remember this Caroline." Bingley informed her. Cutting her off before she could protest more he continued. "That being addressed I am cutting your pin money, you have frequently overspent and I have asked that the shopkeepers do not extend you credit in my name. Furthermore, if I am informed of any more of these tantrums I will not hesitate to stop giving you any money."
"You are treating me as if I am child." Caroline cried in outrage
"If you persist in acting like one I will treat you as such." Bingley raised his voiced to be heard. "You have embarrassed me, Louisa and yourself enough I am not allowing it to continue. This includes your obsession with Darcy. He will not nor will he ever accept your advances, I am warning you to leave him be. I do not care what you believe , if I even suspect you have impure intentions when speaking to him or Gigi for that matter I will ship you off to Aunt so quick you will not be able to blink."
Caroline sat in mute outrage as her brother walked out of the room leaving her stunned and asking herself what had just happened. Without even giving it a second thought she once more grabbed the closest thing to hand, she stopped mid throw as her brothers words echoed in her mind.
Her destruction was coming out of her pin money, money she needed. Without it she would become a social outcast, she tried hard to distinguish herself within higher circles she was not prepared to be mocked because she couldn't afford the latest fashions. She would not give the hypocritical women more to mock other than her roots of trade.
That's how she found herself, stood apart from the group waiting until she could escape from the seemingly laughing eyes of Meryton Society. She watched with barely concealed disgust as they were greeted and passed her, not once did she return a greeting or even nod her head in acknowledgement. If she had been thinking properly she would be aware that this was not the wisest way to present herself, however angry people are rarely wise in their decisions. Her disgust grew evident as she saw the change that overcome Mr. Darcy and her brother as the Bennet's approached.
First to appear was Mr and Mrs. Bennet, he greeted the hosts formally before escorting his wife into the hall. Mrs. Bennet for her part took strength from her husband's presence and only nodded her head to second the greeting, to the astonishment of the spectators. Mr. Bennet couldn't help but smile knowingly as he passed as he knew both the source of disappoint from the gentlemen and for the guests at the ball.
Following her parents was Jane who was on the arm of Mr. Collins, he had tried to maneuver it so Elizabeth was on his arm but she out witted him. Elizabeth had mouthed an apology to her sister as she was led away. Mr. Bingley smiled brightly upon the sight of his angel, his smile dimmed when he noticed the lecherous Mr. Collins by her side. He contented himself with the knowledge that he could rescue her from the mans grasps soon.
Mr. Darcy who stood rock still, his mask in place as it always was in social gatherings. His sister was by his side taking her introduction better than he had expected, he had Elizabeth to thank for that. He had thought she would follow her sister but it was the Lucas' who entered next much to his disappointment. After a few more guests had been greeted Mr. Darcy was ready to excuse himself to go and ask Jane if Elizabeth was ill.
However, as he opened his mouth to form the excuses he was captivated by the sight he saw. Elizabeth. She looked truly stunning, catching his eye she blushed under his scrutiny. He shook himself as he realised he had been staring and had yet to greet them properly. She was not alone he finally noted. A young beauty stood on either side of her, it took Darcy a moment to realise these were her younger sisters he was once more lost for words. Edward stood proud with his Miss. Bennet on his arm making Darcy jealous as he yearned to do such a thing with Elizabeth.
Thankfully, he did not embarrass himself as he greeted them, he even managed to compliment the younger two. Elizabeth smiled in gratitude at him whilst looking smug at her sisters as if her point had just been proven.
Linking arms with Kitty, she pulled her to where Jane was standing with Charlotte and Mr. Collins. Jane looked longingly at the door awaiting her knight to rescue her whilst Charlotte appeared in sincere conversation with Collins. A slight hush fell momentarily as people caught sight of Mary and Kitty, it took people a moment to recognise them for who they were. Once that was noticed the noise once more returned. Their parents appeared by them from the sea of bodies that was present.
"It seems we have caused quite a stir." Mr. Bennet noted dryly, a small smirk at his lips as he whispered into his wife's ear. She laughed gently at him, shaking her head slightly.
"I do believe it was not us that did so, but our girls. We really shouldnt be as vain to try to take the blame." She teased, making her husband chuckle.
In truth all the Bennet's had caused a stir, the novelty of Mr. Bennet appearing at the ball was not lost upon the town. Also, the quiet murmurings of Mrs. Bennet was a source of amazement especially as the married couple seemed content to whisper to each other like young lovers. The loss of Lydia was noted and it was soon spread that Mr. Bennet had finally put his foot down and refused to let her out the house until she acted properly. The source of the information came from Mrs. Phillips, the girl's aunt who was bitter over the loss of a favourite niece. Having no children of her own Lydia represented a surrogate child, she felt the childs absence acutely.
Mary and Kitty were a source of jealousy to the females in attendance as the berated themselves for even trying to look pretty when the Bennets were in attendance. Ignoring the hush that followed their entrance the girls stood talking amiably to each other, they stayed close to their parents until the first set was announced.
Mr. Bingley was quick to secure the hand of his angel from the leech toad as he gently guided her towards the first dance. Mr. Collins reminded Elizabeth of his request, plastering on a civil smile she left the side of her father looking gloomily at Kitty who had to hide her smile behind her hand to stop her laughing at the sight. Mr. Darcy watched with an angry eye as Mr. Collins led Elizabeth to the floor. Mary was led to the floor by Edward, both smiling at each other. Mrs. Bennet remarked to her husband what a handsome couple they make.
Kitty stood next to her parents left by her sisters as they had been asked for the first dance. Usually she would be following Lydia probably into the sea of red coats that were present, she did not feel the lost keenly as she would of. Lost in her own contemplation of her actions she did not realise she was being approached until he cleared his throat.
"Miss. Catherine, you are looking very well." He remarked, looking down at his shoes shyly.
"Thank you sir, although the credit does go to my sisters." She replied wincing slightly as she saw Mr. Collins step on Elizabeth's foot after going the incorrect way. Her sister bore it well showing no signs of distress expect the grim line that replaced the easy smile.
"I doubt that, for how can your sisters make you beautiful?" He asked before reddening at his rather forward remark. Kitty giggled slightly as she watched the blush spread.
"My beauty is just an illusion sir, it will be gown once the fine gown is removed." The gentleman frowned at her words, disliking the disbelief she held in her voice.
"It is no illusion for you shall be as beautiful tomorrow, as you were yesterday and as you are today." He stated giving her no room for arguments.
They remained silent as they watched the dance progress, it was a comfortable silence it was as if they were just enjoying the presence of the other without words.
"Poor Miss. Elizabeth, surely that is the tenth time she has been stepped on." Miss. Darcy remarked as she watched from the sides, as she was not technically out she was allowed to dance. Her cousin was dancing with a Miss. Lucas, Elizabeth's friend so her brother had kept her company. She had planned to speak to Kitty but seeing her talking to a handsome young man she decided to remain beside her brother who was shooting Mr. Collins dirty looks.
"She bares it with grace though." Darcy responded to his sisters comment. Watching as Elizabeth's expression did not alter from what it was as the man trampled her toes. He alternated from watching them dance to seeing the expressions on Mr. Bingley and Miss. Bennet's faces to see if their was equal attachment he still meant to ask Elizabeth about that.
He couldn't help but gravitate towards the Bennets group as the set was over. He had planned to ask Elizabeth to dance but soon realised that the beauty was in high demand. She was swiftly swept into the arms of Edward as he led her to dance the next set, Jane was engaged by Collins whilst Bingley offered to dance with Mary as Darcy had asked for Kitty's hand to dance.
Richard having returned Miss. Lucas to her family asked Mrs. Hurst to dance as she returned after her dance with her husband. Leaving Georgiana to fend for herself as she watched those around her disperse. Taking a deep breath she took pains to try and converse with those she had been introduced to, she would have to face society on her own eventually she reasoned.
The young Darcy soon found herself in conversation with Mrs. Bennet, both Darcy and Elizabeth had warned Georgiana of the way in which Mrs. Bennet could be loud and make inappropriate remarks.
"Don't my girls look well tonight?" She asked, not really directing it towards anyone. Mr. Bennet had accompanied Sir. William to get their wives refreshments.
Lady Lucas scowled slightly much to the ignorance of Mrs. Bennet who had been watching her daughters silently.
Georgiana wasn't sure how to respond but just agreed with the statement. It hadn't escaped her notice that her brother's gaze hadn't left the form of Elizabeth since he had first lasped eyes upon her.
Each time he approached, she would be whisked away by another dance partner. The Bennet girls appeared in high demand as the evening progressed. Mary and Kitty were in high demand the latter being the most in demand especially out of all her sisters.
Kitty had been requested the supper set by Mr. Lucas who had approached her with a shy smile before gently leading her to the set. Whilst Mary was grabbed by Collins who she had successfully avoided that evening until Edward left her unattended to get her a drink as she said she was parched.
The toad had jumped at his chance, causing such a scene that Mary had consented just to silence the mans lavish speeches. This left Edward glaring from the sidelines the gentleman who trampled his poor finances toes, the man seemed ignorant of his folly which made Mary's pain worse.
As the gentleman watched he saw a couple that made him share a conspirator smile with Richard. The soldier who had been enjoying his evening so far joined his friend at the sidelines of the dance floor, both watching the dancers.
"How are you enjoying this evening Colonel?" Edward asked, amusement evident in his tone.
"I must say that it keeps getting better and better as the evening continues.." Richard was quick to respond, smiling smugly as he watched Darcy and Elizabeth go down the set.
"Our plan appears unneccessary, our cousins are advancing well on their own." Edward mumbled as he too observed the couple dance. He had to admit they made a striking couple, they danced well together both competent dancers.
"Have faith in my words Ed," Richard murmured. "My cousin will allow his sense of duty to override those of his heart. Especially if he perceives the ramifications to reflect negatively upon Georgiana's prospects."
The men looked at young girl who was evidently blossoming into a beautiful woman, especially under the guidance of the Bennet girls. Both looked away quickly when they realised they had captivated the attention of the youngest Darcy.
Georgiana raised her eyebrow at the gentlemen who were now looking anywhere but in her direction. She mumbled an excuse to the group she was talking to then advanced upon her cousin, joining him in his occupation of watching the dancers.
"I see your meddling is going as planned gentlemen." She commented laughing slightly at the abashed expressions. "I am not as ignorant as you believe cousin."
"I can see that. However, I can always have the hope that you are not aware of the scheming nature of the world." His words were said with a teasing tilt, smiling at his ward he begrudgingly accepted her words before listening as she whispered her suggestions.
"You are not mad at us for trying control your brothers will?" Edward asked curious for her response.
"My brother shall not admit his feelings because of his beliefs. If we remove said obstacles he has fabricated then he shall be much happier for our interference." Georgiana admitted quietly, aware that their conversation mustn't be over heard for speculation could end up with false hopes in the surrounding neighbourhood.
The couple in question were blissfully ignorant of the gossip they had caused just by standing up together.
Mrs. Bennet almost erupted into raptures over her daughters once more, provoked to do so by a remark that was deliberately made by Lady Lucas. It was said to get a response from the oddly subdued woman who had been relatively quiet all evening, much to Lady Lucas' disappointment.
However, the raptures were soon curbed by the gentle hand upon her arm stopped her short of her loud boastful declarations. Even without Mrs. Bennet's speculation the general public believed what they wished and gossiped none the less.
Darcy had approached Elizabeth much to her pleasure. She had felt his absence keenly throughout the discourse of the evening. She had not seen him on her morning walk as she had become accustomed to, his constant presence was a reassurance to her she felt comfortable with him.
Although aware that she shouldnt be entertaining such thoughts for she was admittedly beneath his station she couldn't keep the wide grin that spread across her face as he words registered in his mind.
"Your company has been a most refreshing experience, Miss. Bennet." Mr. Darcy announced as the dance began. He knew it would give her pleasure to see the pains he took to stimulate conversation with her as he did not make such an attempt with any other person.
"Are you leaving us sir?" Elizabeth asked, unsure as to why else he would begin a conversation as be did.
If Mr. Darcy hadn't been such a fine dancer he was sure he would have faltered in the steps at her question. He was leaving and he had hoped to tell her after the evening when the ball was over, it was his wish not to taint her evening with his leaving.
"Indeed, I am to go onwards to Town tomorrow. I have long neglected business to attend to." He stated after a moment's silence.
Elizabeth allowed herself a second of sadness before it became visible. She was also glad of this news and could breathe a sigh of relief she was pinning too much hope upon a gentleman that doesn't see her beyond a friend no matter what her sisters.
"What of Gigi? Shall she accompany you." Darcy was pleased yet disappointed at her reaction, he couldn't read too much into her expressions otherwise he would drive himself mad. He felt jealousy once more towards his sister for her bond with Elizabeth. One that could continue and was not socially threatening to either of them.
However, he couldnt live his life resenting his sister because of his own failings. "No, she will remain here with the Colonel and Mrs. Hurst."
Elizabeth nodded in response as she could think of nothing else to say. They remained in amiable silence until the quiet unnerved Elizabeth more. She mad some slight conversation on the dance, he replied. After a pause of some minutes she addressed him once more.
"Come Mr. Darcy, one must speak a little, you know. It shall look odd if we do not converse for half and hour together. I spoke of the ball you may speak of the weather, then we will have exhausted all avenues of polite conversations."
"Whatever you wish me to say shall be spoken." He smiled in response. Leaving Elizabeth slightly dazed once more at the sight of his smile on his handsome face.
"I do hope you shan't revert back into your mask once more sir." Elizabeth stated curious as to his response on her assumptions.
"You mean to understand me?" He asked.
"I hear such different accounts of you it makes it hard to form a profile." She admitted to him. Aware of how close he was and the heat that she was absorbing through his touch. The dance was all about the anticipation of touching, a tease of sorts that was making it harder for Darcy to say goodbye to her. He didn't want to their time together to end, upon the realisations of his thoughts he noted that their separation could not come soon enough.
"Pray tell me, what have you discovered of my character that others do not?" Darcy asked genially intreeged to know what she thought of him.
The words spilled out of her mouth without her consent. "You appear reluctant to advance into society that you deem below your station. Although you respond with civility your caution that is exhibited from yourself. However, the caution and slight reserve can be misinterpreted as a proud air that can be seen as your belief that your company is inferior to yourself." Both of them appeared surprised at her words yet she realised that she wasn't done. "I must own up to my own follies, one lf which that is we hadn't been forced to dance and you were kind enough to converse with me I would have believed the same. As it stands now I can honestly say with confidence that I hold you in a high esteem that few gentlemen of my acquaintances ever achieve. I hope your business ends well in London. Your friendship has been valuable during your stay sir, I wish you the best."
Her last word was perfectly timed with the end of the set, she curtseyed as was polite, she remembered at the last second that it was the supper set and would be sitting by the gentleman. She couldn't be more thankful of Miss. Bingley's seating charts at that moment as she entered the dining room. Luck was not on her side as she realised that Georgiana had switched the cards so she was seated by Georgiana and Darcy for the meal.
Now she would suffer through the awkward silence, her forward manners had led her to tell Mr. Darcy what she had not needed to. Elizabeth could not believe that she had just revealed to the gentleman that she held him in an esteem that only a select few ever reached - her father, uncle and a few select cousins. The blush that resided in her cheeks only made its appearance as Mr. Darcy led her to the elected seat.
Darcy had reverted to his silence after soliciting his mask in place. The word that stabbed him in the stomach was 'friendship', although he knew he should be pleased that she didn't expect more between them. His aversion to starting another conversation with her was mutually felt as he led her automatically to her seat, he settled himself in his seat trying not to be jealous as he watched her laugh and smile at something his cousin had said. Darcy remained ignorant of the tables conversation, his company had noted his mood and didn't force him to converse.
If her smile seemed more force than normal or her eyes darted towards Darcy throughout the meal he persuaded himself that it was his imagination. He was trying his best not to stare at the woman he was running away from, he had already admitted to himself that was what he was doing. For his heart was hers and she didn't even know nor would she ever because he couldn't allow it.
Georgiana took note of the tension that seemed to hang in the air between her brother and her friend. The reason for such an event she was not certain, what she was aware of though was the way in which both tried hard to ignore the other as the meal progressed. However, each was unsuccessful as they stole looks at each other when they believed no one to be watching.
Edward watched in amused interest as he saw the affection that was hidden behind his cousins guarded expression, she wasn't as indifferent to Darcy as she would have people believe. Kitty was seated beside John Lucas they appeared to be conversing amiably.
"It appears our daughters no longer wish to remain with us my dear." Mr. Bennet commented quietly to Mrs. Bennet leaning in slightly as to be overheard. The couple shared a wistful look as they looked at their children.
"We still have Lydia, technically she shall be a child for yet another year." Mrs. Bennet replied, smiling at her husbands chuckle. She enjoyed his laughter, It made her feel warm knowing she had created such a response from him.
Lady Lucas watched in envy as the Bennet couple whispered and laughed together, sharing secrets as a husband and wife should. She couldnt help but look in disdain as her husband sat engulfing his food, she had marries for comfort whilst Fanny Bennet ne Gardiner had married for love.
Lady Lucas although content with her life was often envious of her friends good fortune. To marry the man she loved and bore five beautiful daughters was something that Lady Lucas did not strive to do. Her comfort was the title she obtained as she married for the comfort and the gloatable fact she had provided a hier whilst Fanny couldn't.
However, it was no comfort whilst she watched Kitty and John interact. The two had always been close as children but as Kitty had grown wild following Lydia's lead the young woman had left John behind in favor of officers in red coats.
Looking at the good fortune of the Bennet's Lady Lucas's usual comforts did nothing to ease her mind as she noted each daughters suitor and the love that was evident in the parents interactions with each other.
Therefore it was Lady Lucas that first remarked upon the strangeness of the weather. It had taken a turn for the worse, families were being cautious after the flooding of the previous week. People were ordering their carriages early to return to their homes before it hit to ensure their property was safe.
Bingley was polite and attentive to any assistance required to aid his guests safely into their carriages stating his regrets a notion his eldest sister copied politely. Whilst Miss. Bingley congratulated what ever force was at pay for giving her such good fortune.
Mrs. Bennet had upon the false inclination that the weather would clear had hesitated in ordering her carriage as had the Lucas' which consequently resulted in the two families being the last standing in the entry hall of Netherfield.
"A wonderful evening it was indeed Mr. Bingley. A true shame that the weather would be so disagreeable." Mrs. Bennet commented to the host as they awaited the arrival of their carriage.
"I couldn't agree with you more Mrs. Bennet. I was quite enjoying my evening." Mr. Bingley remarked his eyes darting to the blonde form of Jane. "This must be your carriage."
He declared upon hearing the sound of hooves as well as wheels scratching the ground as it was pulled by the horses.
Mr. Collins squealed in joy, causing general confusion to those that had not realised that the carriage that had just arrived was not familiar to all the party. They watched in silent curiosity as a large silhouette descended from the carriage. The Darcy's shuffled nervously, aware of the novelty that they were witnessing.
A flash of lightning illuminated the woman's features as she stood in the doorway, a scowl etched into her features.
"Lady Catherine!" Mr. Collins declared, before bowing so low that his nose touched the floor.
A clasp of thunder followed her entry as the rain soon followed.
"Anne!" Colonel whispered as he took notice of the small figure of his cousin standing behind her mother wearing a look of disapproval. Catching each others eye they smiled gently the spell broken by Bingley's information that they would have to stay the night.