By the time he reached London his horse was lathered and faltering, but his enthusiasm was unimpaired. He could hardly wait to reach the Hurst’s townhouse to tell his sisters about the wonderful opportunity to meet the people of Meryton. The Hurst’s butler bowed deeply when he opened the door to the scion of the Bingley family and allowed himself a dignified smile while he greeted him.
“Come in, sir! Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley are in the drawing-room and I am sure they will be happy to see you!”
“Thanks Bledsoe, I will show myself up.” Charles ran up the stairs three at a time and entered the drawing-room. “Caroline! Louisa! I have the best news!”
Both ladies dropped their needlework onto their laps and stared at their brother. Finally, Caroline spoke. “What can you be talking about, Charles?”
“I have just returned from Hertfordshire to gather you all up and take you to Meryton. They have an assembly tomorrow night! It will be a wonderful opportunity to meet the local gentry!”
Caroline glanced at her sister and back to Charles. “I cannot imagine why you are so in alt about this, Charles. Or why you leased this manor in such a backwards place in the first place.”
“Oh come Caroline! Netherfield is a very comfortable manor and the people are friendly. The hunting season is starting soon and it looks like the coverts are well stocked.” He turned to his friend Darcy, who was leaning silently against the mantel, his arms face a mask. Charles tried again. “Darcy, don’t you think a few weeks in the country doing some hunting and some visiting sounds pleasant?”
Darcy’s lip lifted in a brief sneer, which was quickly suppressed. “You will find the society something savage, Charles. If you want some country air we should go to Pemberley.”
Caroline sat up straighter in her chair. “Oh yes, Mr. Darcy! Pemberley must be lovely at this time of year! I long to visit!”
Charles’ pleasant face hardened slightly. “Caroline, you have been to Pemberley and now I have a manor of my own to visit. I was under the impression that you were to take charge of the house for me.”
“Of course Charles, of course, but I am not particularly thrilled about the wilds of Hertfordshire. I cannot imagine that there is society of any kind there. I think you should drop this lease and we can stay in London until Mr. Darcy leaves for Christmas at Pemberley. We might even see Miss Darcy. Did you not say that she was to spend a few days in London soon, Mr. Darcy?”
Darcy had been watching this family squabble and suddenly felt a pang for his friend and his enthusiasm for his new home. He stood up suddenly. “Well, I think I must go home and pack my things, Charles. What time do you want me to be ready in the morning?”
Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst both pursed their lips and glared at Darcy as he traitorously gave in to Charles’ ridiculous whim. When Darcy caught and held her eyes, his lips compressed, Caroline squirmed in her chair. When she could not tolerate it any more, she broke out, “Well, all right Charles. I suppose we must go if it means that much to you.”
Bingley grinned at the two of them, knowing that Louisa would give in if the two dominant personalities had ceded.
They spent the rest of the evening packing and preparing for their sojourn in Hertfordshire, while Mr. Hurst had his postprandial nap on the drawing-room settee.