The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles
Mr. Darcy’s P&P POV (the abridged version)
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Chapter 30 –
Miss Elizabeth is here? At Rosings Park? I cannot believe it!
For the last four months, I have struggled to rid my mind of the memory of her light and pleasing figure, refreshingly pretty face, amusingly impertinent remarks, and enchanting eyes. She is too low for Pemberley, I reminded myself time and again. Her family is beyond ridiculous. Just when I believed myself successful, just when she stopped haunting my dreams, I am thrust into her company again.
Miss Elizabeth’s idiot cousin, Mr. Collins, was exceedingly thankful that Fitzwilliam and I would condescend to call upon the parsonage. Fool—as if anything could stop me! Like a moth to a flame, I am drawn to Miss Elizabeth’s fiery gaze.
Miss Elizabeth was surprised to see me; that is certain. In my turn, I was surprised to learn the identity of Mr. Collins’s wife. I thought Miss Lucas to be a sensible lady, but one can never tell. As usual, my wits failed me in Miss Elizabeth’s company; I am too captivated by her. I make a couple of inane comments to Mrs. Collins about the cottage and gardens before falling silent. Fitzwilliam, blast him, has no impediment and is his usually charming self. I could throttle him.
Finally, I collect myself sufficiently to inquire of Miss Elizabeth about her family. She assures me they are well and asks whether I have seen Miss Jane Bennet in Town.
I nearly swallow my tongue, but I reply in a reasonably calm manner that I never had the opportunity to meet her there. Oh, I hate lying, but there is nothing for it! I certainly cannot injure Miss Elizabeth by telling her I kept the knowledge of Miss Bennet’s being in Town from Bingley. I am satisfied that what I said is entirely truthful—although not the whole truth.
Gad, my stomach pains me. It must be my breakfast.
Chapter 31 –
Miss Elizabeth has come to Rosings for dinner along with the Collinses. Once more I am struck dumb in her presence. How can it be that a mere country miss can so discombobulate me?
No, that cannot be. It is my aunt’s attendance that stays my tongue. Yes, that is it. Aunt Catherine is on again about my marrying my cousin Anne. Gad! Have I not dropped enough hints and clues in the last ten years that I shall never marry my sickly cousin? My aunt hears nothing but what pleases her. She is relentless and would be most unpleasant to any young woman who caught my eye. I must protect Miss Elizabeth from her wrath.
Unfortunately, Fitzwilliam feels no such restriction. Look at him, shamelessly flirting with Miss Elizabeth! If I did not know that his style of living—which I help augment—precludes him from making her an offer, I should be worried. But it is exceedingly irritating to watch.
What’s that, Aunt—music? “Yes, Lady Catherine. Georgiana is enjoying her music, and I have the very great pleasure of listening to her performance.” Of course Georgiana practices, Aunt! How should she become so proficient if she did not? Thank God her music helps her with her distress.
“I have told Miss Bennet several times that she will never play really well unless she practices more,” says my aunt, “and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she is very welcome, as I have often told her, to come to Rosings every day, and play on the pianoforte in Mrs. Jenkinson’s room. She would be in nobody’s way, you know, in that part of the house.”
What? Oh, good Lord, how can you so cavalierly insult a guest, Aunt? Only a lifetime of good breeding prevents me from making a scene!
Over coffee, Miss Elizabeth takes to the instrument with Fitzwilliam’s assistance. Aunt Catherine is talking over her performance. I shall go to her.
The minx smiles as she plays. “You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed, though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.”
You are brave, Elizabeth, and clever. I hide my grin from the others. “I shall not say that you are mistaken, because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you, and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own.”
Elizabeth laughs heartily—a sound as pretty as her playing—and turns to Fitzwilliam. “Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me and teach you not to believe a word I say! I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able to expose my real character in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit.” She turns her fine eyes to me. “Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous of you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire—and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too—for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out as will shock your relations to hear.”
I can never be afraid of her and tell her so.
“Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of,” cries Fitzwilliam. “I should like to know how he behaves among strangers.”
So you would, would you, Cuz? Shall I tell her how you behave among tavern girls in Spain?
A mischievous glint is in Elizabeth’s eyes. “You shall hear then—but prepare yourself for something very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball—and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances! I am sorry to pain you—but so it was. He danced only four dances though gentlemen were scarce, and to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner.” She turns to me. “Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact.”
I am a little wounded at this. “I had not at that time the honor of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party.” I am not given to exhibition, Elizabeth!
“True, and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room.” Ouch, that hurt. “Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders.”
I try to justify myself. “Perhaps, I should have judged better had I sought an introduction, but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers.”
“Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?” says Elizabeth, still addressing Fitzwilliam. “Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?”
Fitzwilliam grins, blast him. “I can answer your question without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble.” Thank you, traitor. Perhaps I ought to charge you for drinking my port in the future.
I explain to Elizabeth, “I certainly have not the talent, which some people possess, of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.” I glare at Fitzwilliam. There is nothing wrong with being reserved. More gentlemen should follow my example, particularly those who wear the king’s uniform!
Elizabeth looks down as she continues to play. “My fingers do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then, I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practicing. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman’s of superior execution.”
Touché. “You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting.” I smile. “We neither of us perform to strangers.”
Blast it, I have tarried too long by the siren’s side. Lady Catherine calls me over, and I can tell she is suspicious. While I cannot have any designs on Elizabeth, I must not give my aunt any cause to disparage her. I must be content to enjoy Elizabeth’s performance from afar.
Whoa. When did she become “Elizabeth” to me?
After our guests leave, I consider this long into the night.
TO BE CONTINUED…
It takes a real man to write historical fiction, so let me tell you a story.