This week’s episode of Darcy Overhears is another short one. It’s a little over 700 words and will finish the first chapter. I hope to have an entire chapter for you next week.
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“Mmm,” Bennet nodded his head in response to Hurst’s words. He took a slow sip of his drink and then set it on the table beside him. “I must admit that I have not paid much attention to the officers that dine here. I have spoken to most of them long enough to judge their character, and I consider myself to be a very good judge of such things. I saw nothing in Mr. Wickham’s mien or manner to indicate he is anything other than honourable. Young men often speak disrespectfully of ladies when in company with other young men, if you even heard correctly in the first place.” Bennet continued speaking over the gasps of his visitors. “Everyone knows that my daughters are too poor to be the object of attention from a bunch of second and third sons. My neighbors all know it, and I am certain, given the way the ladies gossip, that the small portions of the Bennet daughters are known by every officer in the regiment by now. Even if what you say is true, my Lizzy is too intelligent to fall for the machinations of a rogue, if Mr. Wickham is, indeed, one. Thank you for your time, but I am not concerned about my girls.”
Darcy’s fists involuntarily clenched as he listened to Bennet’s words. His lips compressed as he held back the tongue lashing the elder gentleman so richly deserved. When Bennet finished, Darcy swallowed back the vitriol that was on the tip of his tongue, instead choosing to speak calmly and, he hoped, persuasively. “Sir, one of the reasons Wickham gets away with so much with the ladies is his ability to easily make friends. In a word, he is charming to a degree most of us can never achieve. However, he is unable to maintain friendships. I cannot urge you strenuously enough to reconsider your position. I agree that Miss Elizabeth is an intelligent young lady, but even the most astute of women has fallen prey to Mr. Wickham in the past, and Miss Elizabeth is not the only Bennet daughter who was mentioned. Miss Lydia was, as well, and from the little I have observed of her, she would be a much easier target for a man bent on using her and then discarding her, ruined.” Darcy’s voice had risen as he spoke, a response that had come unbidden at the sight of Mr. Bennet’s smirk. He was relieved to hear Hurst’s voice, supporting his claims.
“I cannot speak for Darcy and Bingley, but I know what I heard. Even without having the history with Mr. Wickham that they do, I would be hesitant to dismiss such a threat to the safety of my daughters. You know as well as I do, sir, that the ruin of one girl is the ruin of them all. Completely unfair, but too true.”
“I also know what I heard, Mr. Bennet. Hurst and I had to hold Darcy back. He was ready to thrash Wickham right then.”
Bennet turned back to the still red-faced and obviously angry Darcy. “Right there is something I wondered about. If Mr. Bingley is correct, you reacted far more strongly than one would think of a gentleman who thinks my daughter is not handsome enough to dance with. What would cause such a strong reaction?”
“The concern of a man who is guardian to a younger sister, and who wishes to protect other young women,” Darcy snapped. He wondered for a moment if he should share the story of his sister, and how she almost eloped with Wickham herself, and if doing so would make a difference in Mr. Bennet’s opinion. In the end, Darcy kept the tale to himself, not convinced the elder gentleman would take it seriously. Still feeling as though he needed to make one more attempt to make Bennet see reason, Darcy opened his mouth to speak, only to have the other gentleman cut him off.
“Enough. I will not be spoken to in such a manner in my own home. You may leave, the lot of you.” Bennet stood, pointing to the door. His face was as red as Darcy was certain his own was, and the three visitors silently stood, bowed, and stalked out of the room.
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