Welcome back to Austen Promises!
Today we see Darcy’s reaction to Mrs. Bennet’s question. Once he started talking, it just flowed right out. LOL The first couple sentences are repeated from last week.
I have decided that I am unable to make this plot bunny/scene/tidbit the basis for my story, but I am going to use it in this next book. I just can’t write anything but Darcy and Elizabeth as the main characters, it seems. It’s sad in some ways, but I do have to remain true to myself, and I don’t have time to wrangle anything into submission. *shrug*
Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? Patrons also get a free copy of each of my books once it is complete.
Darcy swallowed and fought the urge to pull at his cravat. He did his best to avoid a direct response. “Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth are everything lovely and proper. You should be exceedingly proud of them. The other girls are very pretty, as well, and …,” he searched for a word or phrase that would accurately describe them but not offend their mother. “… high-spirited. They are young yet. That is in their favor. With time, they will learn circumspection.” He winced inside at his words. Darcy abhorred deception of any kind, but could not bring himself to hurt Mrs. Bennet’s feelings any more than they had already been hurt.
The lady pondered his words for a few more minutes, and glances at her from the corner of his eye showed Darcy that she was working out his meaning. He wished he could hurry their pace so that he was long gone before she did. Alas, it was not to be.
Mrs. Bennet stopped and turned to her companion. “I suspect, sir, that you are avoiding my question. I cannot make out how your response answers it.”
Darcy had stopped when Mrs. Bennet did. He turned toward her as she spoke, giving her his full attention. He sighed internally, looking up, down, and to the side … anywhere but at his companion. He really did not want to have this conversation. He gave himself a mental shake and decided that his usual policy of total honesty was best. He would, however, attempt to be kind at the same time.
“In the society in which I live, girls as young as Miss Catherine and Miss Lydia are not out. Most young ladies do not make their entrance into society until they are seven and ten or eight and ten. I have no other comparison. I am certain that it must not be uncommon in the country for girls your youngest daughters’ ages to be out.” Darcy paused to swallow and take a breath. He could not make out from Mrs. Bennet’s features what she thought of his words, but he bravely soldiered on in his explanation.
“Their behavior is,” he struggled for a couple seconds to find the right word, “not as mature as what I am used to seeing. In London, a proper young lady would not openly flirt with men. They would not draw attention to themselves but would behave modestly.” Another peek at Mrs. Bennet was fruitless. If anything, she seemed confused. He knew he must clarify further.
“Not all men who lay claim to the title of ‘gentleman’ are so, Madam. When a lady behaves as Miss Lydia does, a man will often assume she is willing to behave … not as a lady ought.” Darcy’s countenance was by now a deep shade of red. It was all he could do not to roll his eyes, turn around, and walk away. “He might come to the conclusion that she will allow liberties that should only go to a husband.” He closed his eyes for a moment, but he needed to see what Mrs. Bennet’s reaction was, so he forced them open once more and turned them toward her.
Mrs. Bennet’s brows had come together. “Liberties?” she asked uncertainly. She peered up at Darcy. “What does Lydia do that would suggest to a gentleman that she would be willing to share her favors, if that is what you mean?”
Gently, Darcy assured her that it was what he meant. “She leans into them, touching them. I have witnessed this myself, though not experienced it. Her gowns expose more of her than proper, and when she presses herself against these men, she exposes her …” The sigh Darcy expelled this time was audible. “Her assets, if you will. A young lady in my circle would do neither of those things. She would stand demurely and maintain distance between herself and the gentleman, at least until they were engaged.”
Darcy saw Mrs. Bennet’s eyes widen and knew he had hit upon the exact example needed to make the matron see her daughter’s behavior clearly. When she spoke, he knew it.
“And Kitty follows where Lydia goes.” Mrs. Bennet’s hands flew up to her cheeks as tears sprang to her eyes. “Oh, my!” She gazed at Darcy once more. “I do not know what to say.”
Darcy offered her his elbow again, relieved when she took it. He started them walking toward Longbourn once more. “There is no need to say anything,” he replied, his tone as soothing as he could make it. “I am sorry that we were forced to have such an inappropriate conversation. I would not usually speak of such things with a gentlewoman.”
What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment for me! <3