Mr. Darcy’s P&P POV (the abridged version)
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Chapter 15 –
WTF? WICKHAM? Wickham is in Meryton? What the devil is he doing here?
When I rode up with Bingley to greet the Bennet party, I almost fell off my saddle at the sight of that reprobate! Looking at his snide expression, the vision of Georgiana’s devastated face came directly to my mind. Oh, how I wish I had throttled that bastard in Ramsgate! I could not stand to be in that degenerate’s presence another instant, for if I did not ride away, I should have leapt off my horse and gave that deceitful disgrace of a man a piece of my mind. No—better yet, a kick in the bullocks.
Charles, of course, berated me for my behavior in Meryton, and I was forced to put him off with an abrupt apology. He knows I dislike that weasel, but he knows nothing about of how that scoundrel damaged my family in Ramsgate. And I mean to keep it that way. Charles cannot keep a secret to save his life.
Blast it all! Did Wickham know I was here? Is he after more of my money? Blackmail—is that his scheme?
No. He knows if he even breathes a word about Georgiana, Colonel Fitzwilliam will hunt him down and skewer him with his sabre. And it will not be in a duel, either!
Well, if my father’s good-for-nothing godson knows what is best for him, he had better stay out of my sight!
Chapter 16 & 17–
I am in a black humor. Even Charles has remarked upon it. Everyone at Netherfield believes it is because I dread the upcoming ball. I know it is beneath me to allow my friends and acquaintances to persist in that erroneous belief, but it is done for the best. I cannot disclose that it is because of Wickham’s presence in the village. That might lead to uncomfortable questions, and Georgiana must be protected at all costs.
The only thing that will make this ball bearable will be Miss Elizabeth’s charming presence. Perhaps she can tease me to better humor. I can only hope.
Chapter 18 –
Well, the night of the ball is here, and all of Bingley’s neighbors are parading in their finery. Miss Bingley should be in ecstasy—so much ammunition for gossip and derision. It seems that my useless former acquaintance did not have the gall to attend along with the rest of the officers. If one did not know better, one would think the man owned some little conscience. I am not deceived. He is cowardly avoiding me, as he should.
Ah, the Bennets have arrived, and Charles is making an absolute fool of himself over Miss Bennet. She does look lovely, if a bit reserved.
Oh, what is wrong with me? I cannot take my eyes off Miss Elizabeth. Her dress is tolerable, her carriage nothing out of the common way, yet the room seems brighter for her presence.
Stop it, man! You are acting no better than Bingley.
My plan is in shambles. I cannot stop watching Miss Elizabeth. I wince each time her fool of a cousin nearly stepped on her dainty little foot, and I thought I would grind my teeth to dust as she laughed dancing with that officer. I cannot stand it; I cannot control my feet. I walk towards her and Miss Lucas, and the words fly from my mouth unimpeded. “If you are not otherwise engaged, would you grant me the honor of the next set?”
I barely confirm that she agreed, so quickly did I depart to gain control of myself.
I escort the lovely siren to the line as the music starts. I try to focus on the steps, but her teasing voice stirs me from my concentration. She demands conversation, and I attempt to answer her impertinence in the same manner, allowing my body to follow the instructions imparted to me by my dancing master so many years ago.
She continues, “I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.”
“This is no very striking resemblance of your own character. How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly.” Is this a tease or not?
“I must not decide on my own performance,” she says, giving me no clue.
We work the figures of the first dance, bow, and start the second, one much slower. I try to think of a subject. Meryton? That should be safe. I enquire as to how often her family visits there. She speaks in a low tone now.
“When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance.”
My gut clenches. That no-good—! Overriding my reluctance to give that cur any notice is a desire to warn her about the rake. But I must be careful for Georgiana’s sake. “Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends. Whether he may be equally capable of retaining them is less certain.”
“He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship,” replied Miss Elizabeth with emphasis, “and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life.”
What? Does the girl believe Wickham? Come, young lady, you are smarter that that! Just as I think of a retort, Sir William Lucas interrupts us. The silly man tries to flatter me on my dancing and… What’s that about Bingley? Expectations? Oh, no, not again!
Miss Elizabeth’s flashing eyes are upon me as the corkbrained knight moves off. “Sir William’s interruption has made me forget what we were speaking of.”
She dismisses the former subject, and we banter of books. I begin to relax when I see she is preoccupied. “The present always occupies you in such scenes, does it?”
She agrees, and then is a moment of some passion, she says, “I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave, that your resentment once created was unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its being created.”
Of course I do, I assure her, but she presses on. I am a bit irritated. “May I ask to what these questions tend?”
“Merely to the illustration of your character. I am trying to make it out.”
I try to pretend I am not insulted, although I am deeply offended. “And what is your success?”
She shakes her head. “I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.”
Wickham again! “I can readily believe that report may vary greatly with respect to me.” I know my voice is harsh, but I cannot help it. “And I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either.” Perhaps tomorrow I can explain.
“But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity.”
Headstrong, obstinate girl! Will you not listen to me? “I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” I growl, for I can barely restrain my temper.
She said no more, and we part in silence as the dance ends.
Gad! What is wrong with her? I thought Miss Elizabeth intelligent! Can she really believe Wickham over me?
Of course she can. That bye-blow was able to make Father believe almost anything and convince Georgiana to run way with him. I really should do something permanent about that cretin.
What the devil is Miss Lydia doing, running about like that? Cannot Mr. Bennet control her at all?
The ball is over, and I have much to ponder. Two issues, actually.
Positives about Miss Elizabeth Bennet: lovely, charming, intelligent (mostly), witty, loyal, modest (in deportment, not dress—thank goodness), accomplished, and owns the most enchanting eyes.
Negatives about Miss Elizabeth: her family. She sometimes expresses opinions that are not her own just for argument’s sake, which can grow tiresome, but that is the exception, not the rule. Her manners could use a bit of polishing for the ton, of course, but that is easily remedied. What cannot be improved is the condition and behavior of her relations.
She is a gentleman’s daughter, true, but Mr. Bennet does not act like one. Besides, two thousand a year barely makes the scratch in my circle. The mother’s relations in trade almost make any union with Miss Elizabeth unpardonable, but what tips her over the edge is her family’s indefensible behavior.
Mrs. Bennet’s abuse of me I can overlook, however, her boasting about Miss Bennet “catching” Bingley is highly offensive. She ignores, nay, encourages the wild behavior of her two youngest. And as for the middle girl, Miss Mary, her sanctimonious pronouncements set my teeth on edge as completely as her horrendous performance on the pianoforte. Mr. Bennet’s unfortunate “correction” of his daughter was poor form and mortifying. The less said about the ridiculous Mr. Collins the better.
If anything, Mrs. Bennet’s ignorant sister is worse. I shudder to think about her brother in London. He must be truly awful. I cannot see myself introducing that lot to my uncle the earl.
Miss Elizabeth simply will not do!
The second problem is Bingley. Never have I seen him in such a state. I truly believe he cares for the lovely Miss Jane Bennet, but Bingley is trying to enter high society, and Miss Bennet cannot help very much. She is almost as admirable as Miss Elizabeth, but owns many of the same disadvantages. It is a harder decision for Bingley, or would be, if Miss Bennet loved him, but to my eyes, she does not. She likes him well enough, but that is all. My affable friend would be devastated by a marriage of convenience, I know. Should he seek my counsel, I must be honest with him.
It is well Bingley has decided to leave tomorrow. I shall join him. We both must put Hertfordshire behind us.
How ironic that I once dismissed Miss Elizabeth as not tempting enough for my attentions. In reality, she is extremely alluring and appealing. She is altogether too tempting. I must remember my duty to my sister and family. I must forget the charming Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
TO BE CONTINUED…
It takes a real man to write historical fiction, so let me tell you a story.