Welcome back to Austen Promises!
Today’s post is part of Chapter 2. We are still at Netherfield.
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At the intersection of two corridors, Darcy and Elizabeth met again. Darcy bowed. “May I escort you to the drawing room?” He offered his elbow, happy that she did not shy away or make excuses but instead, tucked her hand into the crook. That same tingling from earlier made an appearance, spreading out from his elbow where her hand nestled.
“I am thankful that no one ran anyone over this time,” Elizabeth observed, her brow arched in the witty manner Darcy enjoyed so much.
Darcy watched as a small smile played over her lips. He could see that she was teasing him, and he was delighted. He grinned. “I am, as well.”
As the pair descended the grand staircase, they fell into a companionable silence. At least, to Darcy it felt comfortable. He was pleased to be in Elizabeth’s company. He pushed away the misgivings that he had just expressed to Bingley. They approached the door to the drawing room. Darcy nodded to the footman to open it, then stiffened and stopped walking as the voice of Caroline Bingley wafted out.
“I do not see what purpose she has to be here. Her sister has a trifling cold. She had no reason to walk all that way in such dirty weather. She is distracting Mr. Darcy’s attention when it should be on me. We brought him here to see me in the role of mistress of the home, to help him along to a proposal.”
“No, we did not,” Bingley declared in a firm voice. “I invited Darcy here for a bit of sport, not to throw my sister at him.” When Caroline tried to interrupt, he talked over her. “No, Sister. I have told you one hundred times if I have told you once; Darcy is never going to offer for you. He is not interested in you in that way. Why should he settle for the daughter of a tradesman when he could have the daughter of a peer? And before you begin complaining about Miss Elizabeth, the Bennets are above us. Their father is a gentleman, no matter their mother’s ancestry. You know as well as I do that a woman takes on her husband’s status upon marriage. That makes Mrs. Bennet a gentlewoman.”
In the hallway, Darcy had stiffened and grown red. He had almost forgotten Elizabeth on his arm, until she squeezed it. He looked down at her.
“I did not think Mr. Bingley had it in him to be stern, did you?” Elizabeth’s lips were twitching.
Darcy rolled his eyes. “Only when dealing with his sister. She is a never-ending trial to him.”
“Clearly, he does not wish for you to be his brother?” Elizabeth’s head tilted as she looked up at him.
Darcy hesitated before he answered, thinking about the conversation he and his friend had just concluded. “He does not wish to inflict Miss Bingley upon me, no. I am eternally grateful.” Darcy flashed a smile, but almost instantly sobered. Facing forward and heaving a great sigh, he stepped toward the door, silencing those within the room as they realized that he and Elizabeth most likely heard at least part of their conversation.
“There you are!” Bingley strode toward them. “I had about given up on you and was going to order trays sent to your rooms.” In a lower voice, meant only for Darcy’s ears, though Elizabeth heard him, as well, he added, “I apologize, old man. You know what Caroline is like.”
“Oh, I do. No apologies are necessary, I assure you.” Darcy felt Elizabeth try to tug her hand away from his arm. He clamped it close to his side to prevent her leaving. “I cannot speak for Miss Elizabeth, however.”
Bingley turned his attention to the young lady at his friend’s side. “I apologize to you, as well. May I inquire after your sister?”
Elizabeth smiled at Bingley. “Like Mr. Darcy before me, let me assure you that I am not offended by Miss Bingley’s remarks. I cannot begin to speculate as to her reasons for them, except, of course, her desire to marry your friend and the supposition that she perceives me as a threat.” She shrugged. “I do not know why she thinks that way, but I feel it is best to let it go.”
Bingley glanced from Elizabeth’s face to Darcy’s. “Do you not?”
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