Thursday’s 300: The Gentlemen Visit Longbourn

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Today’s post is another scene that I cut from a story. It’s another vignette, but it’s a longish one – about 950 words.

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A short time later, Darcy and Bingley were being admitted to Longbourn’s drawing room.

“Mr. Bingley! How good it is to see you!” Mrs. Bennet curtseyed, as did her five daughters behind her. “And Mr. Darcy, you are welcome, as well.”

“Thank you, madam.” Darcy bowed. While he had spoken the truth to Caroline when he said he wished to get to know the entire family better, the mistress of the house was hard on his temper. It was always difficult to keep himself under good regulation when he wished to let his opinions loose, but in her presence, it took twice as much effort. He looked around, noting his friend bowing over Jane’s hand, and the two youngest girls giggling over something on the table in the corner. He finally located Elizabeth near the fireplace, her next youngest sister beside her on a couch. Instantly, he strode toward them.

“Good afternoon Miss Elizabeth, Miss Mary.” Darcy bowed to the ladies. “Might I join you?”

“Certainly.” Elizabeth added a nod to her approval.

Despite her welcoming smile, Darcy noted the wariness in Elizabeth’s eyes as he settled himself into the chair nearest her. He faltered for a moment, the witty comment he had planned to make getting stuck in his throat at her look. He swallowed, gathering his courage and soldiering on. “How are you ladies today?” Darcy held his breath as he awaited their response.

“I am well, thank you.” Elizabeth’s smile remained, but began to look strained.

“Excellent. Miss Mary, I hope I find you in good health, as well?”

“Oh, yes, sir.” Mary smiled shyly. “How are you?”

“I am well.” Darcy glanced across the room toward Bingley. “My friend and I were discussing your lovely county this morning. I told him I find it very beautiful.” Darcy’s gaze moved from Mary to Elizabeth and held for a long moment. “There are many beautiful things here in Hertfordshire. People, too.”

“Thank you. I have heard from my aunt that Derbyshire is gorgeous.” Mary looked at Elizabeth, who had said nothing else, instead applying herself diligently to her needlework.

“Ah, yes, it is, but in a different way than what is found hereabouts. The terrain is far rougher than in Hertfordshire.” Darcy sighed to himself. Keep trying, man. You knew this would be a difficult task. “Where are your aunt and uncle today?”

Finally, Elizabeth spoke. “My uncle is with my father in his book room. My aunt has gone upstairs to spend some time with my nieces and nephews.” She glanced at the clock on the mantel. “She will probably return in a few minutes.”

“Yes, she likes to put them down for naps herself.” Mary smiled.

“They are delightful children. I can see why she does.” Darcy leaned back and crossed one leg over the other.

Suddenly, Elizabeth looked at her guest, a challenge in her gaze. “So our county pleases you. Do the people make you happy, as well?” She tipped her head toward the center of the room, where her mother could be heard exclaiming loudly over something Bingley had said. “After all, this is the country. Our manners are not as refined as one would find in town.”

“No, they are not. However, they do not need to be. There is no need for airs when one is intimately acquainted with so many. There are too many members of the beau monde to make deep connections to more than a few, so there is a greater need for more formal manners there.” Darcy’s gaze searched Elizabeth’s. He saw a flash of something in her expression, but it was gone in an instant. It was, however, enough like approval to give him the courage to continue. “Do you agree, Miss Elizabeth?”

“I do.” Elizabeth looked at him for a minute, then lowered her gaze back to her hoop. “I am surprised to hear such an opinion coming from you.”

Darcy shifted in his seat. “I sometimes make an impression when I meet new people that I do not intend to. I apologize if I have made you think I hold you and your neighbors in anything but the highest esteem. There is much to like here.”

Elizabeth flicked her eyes over Darcy but said nothing.

“Mary, come here. I have need of you.” Mrs. Bennet called her middle daughter, leaving her second eldest alone with Darcy, a situation that suited him just fine.

“I know you have denied me your hand in the dance twice since I arrived at Netherfield, but I hope you will grant me a set at my friend’s ball tomorrow night. I would very much enjoy standing up with you.” Darcy spoke softly.

Elizabeth searched Darcy’s face with her eyes and for a long moment, he feared she would deny him again. Instead, she nodded. “I will.” She looked down. “Did you have any particular dance you wished me to save?”

“I was hoping for the first.”

Elizabeth stilled briefly. She nodded again. “Very well. I will dance the first set with you.”

“And the supper set.” Darcy bit his lip.

Elizabeth looked up, eyes wide. “Two sets, sir? Are you certain you wish to encourage certain among us who might take that many dances as a declaration of sorts?”

Darcy gave a single, firm nod. “I am positive. I wish to stand up with you for two sets, those two particular ones.” To himself, he added, I do not care what impression I give. Whatever is conjectured will likely be the truth, regardless.

Slowly, Elizabeth nodded. “Then I will save the first and supper sets for you.”

Darcy could not prevent the wide grin that spread over his face. “Thank you, Miss Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth smirked, and looked down, shaking her head.


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